Outraged Cestrians have slated the council for leaving parts of the iconic City Walls ‘propped’ up for years on end.

The Watergate Bridge has been hidden from public view under scaffolding and wooden hoarding since September 2012, after safety concerns forced council engineers to briefly close the bridge.

Now, two years after the historic bridge was first propped up for “essential maintenance” works, The Chronicle can exclusively reveal that it may not be restored until 2017.

Despite being regarded by many as a gateway to the city, regularly used by residents and tourists and seen by thousands of race goers every year, the money needed to fix the bridge is not due to appear in Cheshire West and Chester Council’s budget until 2016-2017.

Steve Howe, who runs guided tours and takes tourists around the city walls, said visitors were often ‘shocked’ and couldn’t understand why so much of the historic site was covered in scaffolding.

He said: “People come here for the Walls, they cannot believe they are covered in scaffolding, and are regularly closed.

“We have got to the stage were heritage is being put on hold for years on end. We should be living in a place that is proud of its heritage.

“It has to be given priority because that is what is bringing people to our city.

“We cannot have our City Walls covered in scaffolding – it is totally unacceptable.”

 

Champion of the Walls, David Pickering, who is planning a number of events in the city next year involving the walls, said the scaffolding was 'unacceptable'.

"If we are going to have these events here the scaffolding needs to be down by May next year," said Mr Pickering who is hoping to have a hundreds of people linking arms around the walls and said every part would need to be accessible and clear of scaffolding.

"They have a budget for repairs and need to look again."

The wooden hoarding that encases the bridge is now so old the council are planning to repaint the wood in a bid to improve the look of the bridge which has graffiti tags sprayed on the inside covering.

It is not clear how much it would cost to repair the bridge, but the authority say they hope to bring the cost forward into the 2015-16 budget, allowing the much awaited work to start next year.

But outraged history enthusiasts have slated CWaC for not making the historic walls a priority, as other parts of the ancient landmark remain closed off and covered in scaffolding after being ‘propped up’ earlier this year.

In July the council closed entrances to the Roman Gardens and the access to the walls via the Recorder Steps after safety fears, while residents say Water Tower Street has been closed off for a number of years.

Work has begun on repairing the Recorder Steps, but history enthusiasts say that it is ‘shameful’ that the council are leaving parts of the city’s famous heritage in a state of disrepair for years on end.

The criticism comes just a month after the council was slated for the state of Dee House after plans to transform the building into a state-of-the-art tourist attraction fell through.

The bridge was originally closed to pedestrians for two weeks in September 2012 after it was discovered that parts of the masonry were moving and making the bridge lean outwards.

Since then Watergate Bridge has been supported by metal framework and wooden hoarding, allowing people to continue walking along the walls over the bridge.

A spokesperson for CWaC said: “I would stress when the issue was identified in 2012, we took action straight away to put in these wooden supports and allow the bridge to remain open and fully accessible to pedestrians.

“This is a temporary measure and will remain in place until work which we expect will be in the next financial year.

“We hope it will be in the budget of the next financial year, it was initially scheduled for 2016-17 financial year.”

The council earmarks £600,000 a year for the upkeep of the Walls, and say that since 2009 they have spent £3M repairing and maintaining the world renowned landmark.