The Department of Infrastructure has this week submitted plans to replace the bridge in Laxey that was destroyed during the recent flooding.
Subject to planning approval, the Department aims to have the new single-span structure open to traffic in time for this year’s TT Races.
The Old Laxey Bridge was irreparably damaged in December when flash flooding resulted in part of the structure collapsing into the river. The remainder of the bridge was demolished and a temporary pedestrian footbridge erected while plans were drawn up for a permanent replacement.
The proposed new bridge will reduce the likelihood of any future flood damage by allowing the river to flow unimpeded out to sea. The bridge will also include a footway and the intention is to give pedestrians greater priority and to reduce the number of vehicles that use Old Laxey as a short-cut through the village.
The Department sought the views of Garff MHK Steve Rodan, Laxey Village Commissioners, Laxey Regeneration Committee, Manx National Heritage and the Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust and invited them to comment on four possible options for the replacement bridge. Sketches of the different proposals were published in a community newsletter and householders were also encouraged to voice their opinions during a public presentation.
While a number of people expressed a preference for option 1b from an aesthetic viewpoint – a simple design with stone cladding to create the appearance of a single arch – the overwhelming desire was for a bridge that would be better equipped to survive future flooding.
This led the Department to consider the three options for a ‘flat’ bridge, which provides a significant improvement on the original three-span structure and on the arched replacement option in terms of the volume of water that can be handled.
Option 1a, a plain design, and option 3, based on the concept of the Laxey Wheel, did not find favour with the public. There was support for option 2, which takes inspiration from the ‘pepper pot’ lighthouses at the harbour. This design will handle almost three times the volume of water of the original Old Laxey Bridge in any future flooding event.
Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne MHK said:
‘The Department has sought the views of the public, businesses and elected representatives and is trying to balance a range of key factors. It is clear that the impact of the recent flooding was so devastating to residents and businesses that flood prevention has to be our primary consideration. The majority of people who spoke to our officers wanted us to make swift progress with the opening of a new bridge that would not be so vulnerable to future flood damage. It’s important to have the replacement bridge in place as soon as possible because part of lower Laxey risks being cut off if there are any problems with Old Laxey Hill.’
‘The Department has decided to submit its application based on option 2, but with changes to some of the materials and finishes in line with comments from local people. There seems little point in trying construct a “pretend” old bridge, so we are proposing a good, contemporary, architect-designed option that recognises the importance of Old Laxey and its conservation area status. Our aim is to build a bridge that is, in time, as well loved as the old one was.’
As part of the proposals, the Department will take the opportunity to improve the road junctions between Glen Road, Minorca Hill and Breeze Hill and to enhance sections of the retaining wall near the bridge.