Finchingfield Bridge reopen following the completion of brickwork repairs

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Brickwork repairs to Finchingfield Bridge have been completed and the B1053 has been fully reopened to traffic, with no plans for a closure on 20 March 2024.

Temporary daytime closures of the structure have been necessary this week to repair damage caused by vehicle strikes.

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Future plans for Finchingfield Bridge

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Finchingfield Bridge carries the B1053 over the village pond. It is an old bridge, approximately 200 years old in a deteriorating condition that needs to be dismantled and rebuilt.

Maintenance update - March 2024

Parapet damage sustained from vehicle strikes during summer 2023 was repaired in October 2023, and additional brickwork repairs were carried out in March 2024 following subsequent collisions.

These repairs were carried out under temporary daytime bridge closures to minimise local inconvenience. We were able to escort buses and emergency vehicles through the works, while a diversion was in operation for all other vehicles.

Progress update - October 2023

Following the planning application submitted to Essex County Council late last year, Essex Highways continues to work in the background to progress our long-term plans for the structure, as well as address short-term works required on the bridge.

Bridge replacement scheme update

During the planned closure week commencing 23 October 2023, Essex Highways had intended to undertake investigation works on the village green to inform the plans to provide a proposed temporary pond crossing during future Finchingfield Bridge replacement work. This is necessary to obtain further information on underground service locations and ground conditions, particularly in the pond.  However, permission requested for this has not been granted by the Parish Council, resulting in the investigation work being delayed for now. The Parish Council have requested evidence demonstrating the need to replace the structure before any permission will be granted for work within the green area.

A reassessment of the structure was commissioned several months ago and a new report has been drafted. The new draft assessment indicates the bridge is weak and supports earlier assessments. Once the report is finalised, a decision will be made with Essex County Council regarding appropriate options required to keep the public safe as they travel over the bridge. 

Bridge replacement design 

The design to replace the existing bridge is progressing and new engineering drawings have been developed and can be found below. As can be seen from the information shared, beyond a slight widening, the appearance of the bridge remains very similar to the current structure.

Proposed temporary crossing (1 of 2)
Proposed temporary crossing (2 of 2)
Permanent bridge foundation - lower wall 
Permanent bridge south wall evalation/insitu pre-cast concrete
Permanent bridge south wall elevation in full

Construction sequence, phases 1 and 2

Following Essex Highways’ planning application submitted in December 2022 to replace the existing bridge and install a temporary crossing during the works, we have had feedback from Essex County Council’s planning department and other consultees. We are currently working on the application with a view to answering some of the questions that have been raised.  These include subjects such as landscaping, arboriculture, ecology, biodiversity, archaeology and historic buildings and responses are currently being put together. This amended application is awaiting completion of certain design elements and it is expected that it will be issued during winter 2023/24.

While an amended application is being put together, the design work on the scheme will continue with a view to reconstructing Finchingfield Bridge in future years. Essex Highways remains optimistic permission to replace the existing bridge will be granted, however the plan to commence construction early in 2024 is now unlikely.

Revised timeline of events 2023/2024

  • Carry out parapet repairs in October 2023 following damage sustained during summer 2023 (completed)
  • Bridge designs to be finalised and improve planning application submitted winter 2023/2024
  • Planning application will be determined
  • Vibration monitoring will commence to understand current levels of vibration caused by passing traffic. This will require a short-term off-peak road closure of the road above the bridge whilst monitoring equipment is installed to the Greedy Duck building
  • Designs will be finalised
  • The scheme will be priced and the build awarded
  • Construction start will be confirmed in 2024

Our plans are subject to necessary legal permissions, obligations being met and planning permission granted. We will continue to keep the community appraised of progress as information becomes available.

Progress update - January 2023

Although not directly visible to the public during 2022, Essex Highways has continued to make progress on our proposals for Finchingfield Bridge.


Essex Highways tendered for the works to replace Finchingfield Bridge in December 2021 as a design and build scheme, with the contract with Jackson finally agreed and appointed in June 2022 after a period of negotiation.

Since then, design has commenced with Jackson Design Consultant, Waterman, getting started with developing the outline designs undertaken by Essex Highways. We are now in a position to share the latest drawings covering the new bridge, the temporary work to enable its construction and for the temporary crossing of the pond.

The new bridge
Temporary work to enable construction of new bridge
Temporary pond crossing

Further details will be published as they become available. As has been mentioned in previous updates and other correspondence, the intention remains to construct a lasting structure that is visually similar to the existing; the bridge and pond elevation will be constructed to the same dimensions as the existing, albeit a short distance into the pond to accommodate the introduction of narrow verges. New heritage bricks will be selected through the construction of sample panels in the spring of the 2023. This will be visible to the public, with notice in advance.

De-registration of the village green

In 2022, Essex County Council purchased the land north of the Pightle behind the St John the Baptist church yard, to be passed to and held in perpetuity by the Parish Council. The land will be used as exchange land within the application to de-register parts of the village green for use during the reconstruction of the bridge. The exchange land and areas of village green for de-registering can be seen on drawing BR0026-00-0431E, noted as release land.

In the short term, there will be a slight gain in village green area within the village as a consequence of the de-registration application;

  • Release land (village green)– 2130m2
  • Exchange land (behind St John the Baptist church yard) – 2324m2
  • This will provide a small increase of 194m2.

Following the completion of the construction activities, the intention is to register the majority of the areas that were de-registered. However, some areas will become highway land; where we are building the widened structure within the pond and to smooth kerb lines along the B1057 The Causeway.

  • The areas to be re-registered as village green total 2,073m2.
  • Following construction there will be a total increase in village green area available to the community of 2,277m2.

A draft application for the de-registering of village green areas has been issued to Finchingfield Parish Council for their comment. Once all parties are satisfied with the application, it will be issued. There will be a consultation period associated with the application where interested parties will be able to express the views on the application. The commencement of the consultation period will be published within the Braintree and Witham Times and interested stakeholders (Braintree District Council, Natural England, Historic England, Open Spaces Society, local authority archaeological service) shall receive a copy of the notice.

De-registration plan - BR0026-00-0431
Registration plan - BR0026-00-0433

Planning Application - January 2023

A planning application was submitted for the entire scheme at the end of 2022. The scheme is little changed from that submitted under the pre-application in 2021, however it includes greater emphasis on the need for the temporary crossing for the pond, which remains our intention to introduce, to mitigate the harms caused to the community and businesses from a lengthy road closure.

It also picks up on the other points raised in the pre-application response and we are optimistic that it will be received favourable.

Details of the planning application can be viewed and commented on via the Essex County Council planning application portal.  Further details and a link are provided below: 

  • Reference number: CC/BTE/129/22
  • Consultation start: 19/1/2023
  • Consultation expiry: 28/2/2023

All responses relating to the planning application should be made directly to the Essex County Council Planning Service within the appropriate timescales identified on their website.

Why does the bridge need replacing?

Finchingfield Bridge is an old bridge with some elements approximately 200 years old. The existing pond side elevation is a patchwork of constructions, the arch and buttresses dating to the early 20th Century and the wingwall to the west and parapet over the bridge from the 80’s and the eastern wingwall substantially repaired in 2000’s. More recently Essex Highways, have reconstructed the upstream spandrel and parapet due to its poor condition. The 1980’s and work in the 2000’s were all required through impacts from passing traffic. The oldest elements of the bridge are not visible to the public, these are the arch and abutments at the upstream end.

Independent assessments have confirmed the oldest part of the bridge arch is weak and unable to sustain the required loading (weight capacity) within acceptable safety factors. We monitor the bridge to ensure its safe use, however this is an interim measure whilst we plan to replace the bridge. The overall condition of the bridge is poor and will continue to deteriorate without intervention. Not helped by the regular impacts from passing vehicles, due to its narrow construction. 

All of these factors have been considered when opting to pursue the removal of the existing bridge, and replacing with one of similar style, albeit slightly wider to provide protection to the bridge parapet and adjacent building, improving safety in the process. The width between new kerbs will be similar to that currently existing between the parapets.

Full details are contained within the Planning Application’s supporting documents, with a selection of reports and independent assessment also included in the Document Section of this webpage.

Pre-application response - 2021

On 24 November 2021, Essex Highways received a pre-application response from the Planning Service within Essex County Council.

As part of our pre-application submission, we provided details regarding our proposals in relation to the replacement of the existing bridge and the inclusion of the temporary bridge. The Planning department provided commentary of all proposals and advice based on current Planning policy. Formal comments were sought from a number of stakeholders, including Braintree District Council, Finchingfield Parish Council, and the Council’s urban design, landscape, ecology, arboricultural, historic building and archaeological consultants (Place Services).

In relation to the replacement of the existing structure, no fundamental objections were raised against our proposal however it is considered “that the design of the replacement bridge will need to be sensitive”.

As part of our pre-application, we submitted a document that outlined the public benefits to installing the temporary crossing as a community-wide vote previously held by the Parish Council in 2020 had confirmed by a considerable majority the preference for inclusion of a temporary crossing whilst Finchingfield Bridge is replaced. We support this view as it will bring several public benefits during the construction of a replacement bridge. This pre-application documentis available for your review in the Document section of this web page. However, Officers from the Planning Service are “unconvinced that for a period of six to nine months the impacts to Finchingfield residents and businesses would however be greater or more severe than the potential harms which could result to nearby heritage assets”.

The Officers advised that the “provision of a temporary bridge is not likely to be supported, in its proposed location, given the harms (or potential for harms) resulting solely from this”.

The full pre-application is available to view in the Document section of this webpage.

Despite the advice received from the Planning Service as part of the pre-application process, it remains the intention of Essex Highways to submit the temporary bridge within our full planning application, providing members of the community the opportunity to formally support, or object to, the proposal of including the temporary bridge.

Temporary bridge (pond crossing) location - 2021

Due to current design standards and health and safety reasons, there is no alternative location for the temporary crossing. The current proposal already includes a number of departures from standards. We have already compromised a number of design elements for the proposal.

The alignment of the proposal has been explored at length and following initial feedback from the Planning service, the alignment was adjusted by over 1.3 metres. Further relocation of the temporary bridge will result in road users being put at an unacceptable health and safety risk.

Information event - 2020

Members of the public were invited to an information event held on 1 October 2020 at Finchingfield Guildhall to meet and discuss our future proposals for Finchingfield Bridge with our Structures team, and to share feedback.

Information and updates will continued to be shared via the Finchingfield Bridge webpages, and directly where key information needs to be shared, to keep the community updated with the latest progress, along with the parish council.

Finchingfield Bridge – Questions and Answers (October 2020)

Select a question to reveal/hide the answer:

It is an old bridge, some elements approximately 200 years old in a deteriorating condition. The bridge is also weak and cannot be strengthened to sustain the required loading. It is regularly struck by passing vehicles due to its narrow construction. These factors have been considered in opting to pursue reconstruction.

Once the final bridge design has been formalised and a contractor has been appointed for the works, we will have a better indication of construction timescales. In the meantime we are considering road closure of between six and nine months.

As reported in 2018, the intention is to dismantle the existing structure and replace the bridge with one built in the same location with avery similar look to the existing bridge. We anticipate reinforced concrete will be used in the core construction of the bridge, but with brickwork cladding installed to offer an outward appearance similar to the existing structure.

It is proposed the current width between the bridge walls will be maintained between new kerbs and a narrow hardened verge to offer some protection to the bridge parapets. These proposals will lead to a bridge that will be up to 1.5 metres wider overall, but maintaining the same road width, so that the bridge continues to act as a traffic calming feature.

At this stage we have obtained sufficient information to complete a new bridge design and have no current plans to close the bridge for further investigations.

Essex Highways will identify locations where their site compound/facilities can be located to ensure we minimise disruption to the local area as much as is reasonably practicable. However, it is likely that the areas of village green will be utilised.

Once acontractor has been appointed for the works, we will seek professional advice on how best to deal with this issue. It could be possible, that areas of the village green and features within it could be removed and stored safely, before being reinstalled once the works have been completed, like we did in October 2019.

There are no plans to include a footway as part of the project.

Trial hole investigations were carried out in late October 2019 to determine the precise location and depth of utility services in and around the village green areas. The investigation works have shown that it is technically feasible to install atemporary vehicle crossing across the village green. We continue to explore this as an option with the Parish Council.

As part of the temporary crossing option, various planning approvals will be required for the use of the village green areas.

This has not yet been decided, however it is something that members of the community can influence. We will continue to work closely with the Parish Council, to establish what material the community would prefer. Feedback from the recent public information event was that granite setts or cobbles may be preferred.

No and this is one reason why the hard standing areas will remain narrow in width. The hard standing areas have been introduced to protect the bridge parapets.

Our intention is to use the same bricks that were used in August 2020 when the parapet repairs were completed. These bricks are a close match in texture and colour to the bricks that were used to build the original bridge, some 200 years ago.

Yes, however the use of pre-fabricated materials will depend on how other construction complexities are resolved. Where possible, pre-fabricated materials will be used in efforts to reduce the overall construction programme

We will work with local stakeholders to try and minimise the impact on businesses and residents by completing the work without delays. However, when ahighway authority or statutory undertaker carries out works under its statutory powers or duties, it is not liable to pay compensation for loss of trade. Traders have no right to any particular level of passing trade: business may fluctuate for anumber of reasons.

Highway works benefit the whole community, including businesses and others who, while they might be adversely affected in the short-term, will benefit in the long-term. The highways authority has astatutory obligation to maintain the highway to areasonable standard for the benefit of all road users.

We will continue to post updates about our proposals on both this and our Finchingfield Bridge, B1053, Finchingfield webpage.

Please check the Document Section at the bottom of the webpages where supplementary information will be published as it becomes available.

Details will also be shared with local parish councils about future works.

To share your feedback on future proposals please contact either Finchingfield Parish Council, or Essex Highways byemail.

For details about other works in the area you can visit one.network, or follow the Essex Highways twitter feed: @essexhighways.

Finchingfield Parish Council Questions and Answers (August 2022)

Five contractors were originally approached with a view to determining their interest to tender for the work at Finchingfield. Of these, two were taken forward to competitive tender for the design element of the work. The contract was awarded to Jackson and we are currently agreeing the programme, following which the website will be updated with key dates amongst other information.

The Open Spaces society were consulted in March 2021. They advised that they would consult their local members and after a short period of time responded that they did not have any comments to make, at that time.

We anticipate submission of the planning application in September and would expect a decision before the end of the year, 2022.

We have experienced some delays to the programme during the course of the year and now do not expect to be on site before June 2023.

Permissions include; Planning Permission, De-registration of the Village Green Areas, EA, licencing of land from third parties.

The planning application is in progress and is expected to be issued in September 2022.

  • The De-Registration application will shortly be issued to the PC’s solicitors for their review and recommendation to the PC for acceptance/signature.
  • With respect to the licencing, we have had early conversations and agreed in principle areas for licencing with certain third parties, however, are hoping to limit the amount of land licencing required by improved working practices. We should have received updated Site Plans from our Supplier, Jackson, in September, following which we will commence land negotiations.

There is a need to determine the extent of the foundations to the retaining wall above the pond to the East of the bridge. The need from this stems from the approach to the temporary support of the Greedy Duck building. This investigation has not been done previously. This is currently in planning, however, it requires an Environment Agency Flood Risk Activity Environmental Permit and this will take some time to obtain. We do not now expect to be on site in October.

In addition, we will need to determine the ground conditions along the soft areas of the temporary carriageway, this includes the green and pond. We will require permission from the Parish Council for this. This work will also feature in the Flood Risk Activity Environmental Permit.

Overall, we expect to need to be within the carriageway at the bridge for up to two days.

We will determine with the Parish Council a sensible approach to stakeholder feedback and engagement. We currently envisage, to tie in with the web site update, a letter drop to the Parish.

Further key points where letters will be sent or web updates will be made;

  • Planning Decision
  • Plans to build trial brick panels for viewing
  • Once final design drawings are ready
  • Once construction programme is fully developed, key milestones will be shared.

Taken from FAQ’s 2020 Q1 above.

It is an old bridge, some elements approximately 200 years old in a deteriorating condition. The bridge is also weak and cannot be strengthened to sustain the required loading. It is regularly struck by passing vehicles due to its narrow construction. These factors have been considered in opting to pursue reconstruction.

We feel we have a strong case for the benefits of the temporary crossing, however, are not the authority determining the planning application. We do not know how likely the decision to support it will be.

The planning authority may decide that this is the case and reject the application.

We do not consider this necessary, or enforceable.

The river fluming is still in design. The design will ensure that flooding of upstream properties does not occur as a consequence of the measures to control the river flows. There will be a management plan in place during the work which will include contingency planning for use in the event of a flood event.

Yes, once we have agreed the programme for the design, regular parish, business and community updates will be published.

We intend to explore the need for archaeological digs. At tender, there were two defined hold points in the scheme for archaeological investigations. However, pending the planning response, we will consider further investigations within the village green areas.

We employed an Archaeologist during previous excavations at the bridge, findings were given to the Guild Hall Museum following this work. A similar approach will be followed.

Please explain this point.

All environmental impact assessments affecting Parish Council property will be shared.

As you have stated, the essence of the temporary pond crossing is to maintain the single lane flow of traffic over the road in a similar fashion to that of the existing bridge.

However, with the removal of the bend and hump of the existing bridge, it is important that the speed of traffic is controlled as it uses the temporary crossing. And whilst various method of speed reduction / traffic calming have been considered, the best solution is the use of “intelligent” traffic signals, with the distance between the signals being kept to a minimum (as this will give the maximum flow of vehicles, with the minimum delay / queues).

These intelligent signals should ensure that approaching traffic only see a red light, which causes them to slow down, which then changes to green as they near the signals (as long as nothing is coming the other way) and then back to red once the vehicles have gone. These signals will also adjust the amount of green time to suit the volume of traffic travelling in each direction.

The temporary carriageway running past Brick House shall be a minimum of 3.3m away from the railings of the property, this will widen as the road travels west. This is substantially further away from the road than is already experienced by properties further up Church Hill.

With respect to pedestrians, the width available to pedestrian will be similar to that currently available along Bridge Street, once parked cars are considered. However, there will be barriers segregating the public from the vehicles which will also offer protection.

With respect to the arrangement shown on Drg. No. BR0026-00-0913 (the 2015 drawing referenced). This was an early arrangement which had not benefited from the fine tuning that the current proposal has. Sight lines and current standards were not considered in depth for instance and fell short of standard for vehicles driving West from Church Hill. This earlier arrangement would have required the widening of the traffic signals to include the B1057 from the North, requiring three-way signals and resulting in longer queues and greater loss of parking for the nearby residents. In addition to these factors, the level differences would have required a higher carriageway level crossing of the pond which would not be consented to by the Environment Agency. They have indicated that higher levels could increase potential flood risk. As with many things, the design of the temporary crossing of the pond has been reviewed in the time since the earlier outlines were prepared with a view to improving end user safety. We consider the current arrangement to be a well-considered proposal which offers the safest solution to the problem of closing the road above the existing Finchingfield bridge.

Taken from FAQ’s 2020 Q13 above.

We will work with local stakeholders to try to minimise the impact on businesses and residents by completing the work without delays. However, when a highway authority or statutory undertaker carries out works under its statutory powers of duties, it is not liable to pay compensation for loss of trade. Traders have no right to any particular level of passing trade: business may fluctuate for a number of reasons.

Highway works benefit the whole community, including businesses and others who, while they might be adversely affected in the short term, will benefit in the long term. The highways authority has a statutory obligation to maintain the highway to a reasonable standard for the benefit of all road users.

We are currently considering the introduction of granite setts on the verges.

Photograph below is similar in appearance to our intention. The surface will be uneven and the mortar joints recessed as shown.

No. However, during our meeting there was significant discussion/concern raised by the PC regarding the large vehicles which pass through the village and that this might become more of a problem during the scheme. We have agreed to consider the viability of diverting large vehicles away from the site, however note that this may not be enforceable and could have wider impacts than the large through traffic mentioned.

The temporary crossing of the pond will feature a series of pipes with road construction above them. The solution has been selected to minimise the height of the road level, reducing flood risk.

We have considered different options with regards the Greens, core amongst this is their appearance and availability for use following the work. We have already investigated and identified the species of grass within the Greens and are planning to further investigate with a view of growing new turf off site.

We had considered lifting the existing turf, caring for it whilst the works are underway and re-lifting, however it was not considered viable. The concern being that the turf would not survive lifting for the second time.

We currently plan to replace all affected turf to the design specification and will be discussing with the Parish Council whether to widen this to include the whole of the Green west of the pond. Noted in the meeting that a view from the PC would be to see how it looks and take a view on the situation.

We will be. Once we go live with the coming web update, letters to the Finchingfield Parish, we will then write to the other nearby parishes.