ANSWERS are being demanded as to why a feasibility study into a new bridge has still not begun – over a year after hundreds of thousands of pounds were awarded to carry it out. The Government gave £700,000 for investigations into a footbridge over one of Keighley district’s busiest and fastest roads. Plus a six-figure Section 106 sum was pledged by a developer. But an angry councillor says the study into the proposed bridge, which would span the Aire Valley trunk road and link Steeton and Silsden, is still nowhere near starting. And he fears the delays could lead to funding being lost. Although Bradford Council is spearheading the feasibility study, the money was allocated to West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
“This money has been sitting there for over a year and only now are they looking at getting round to appointing a consultant for the study,” said Craven-ward district councillor Adrian Naylor, who is also a member of Silsden Town Council.
“Having built-up a head of steam, we have had a year of doing nothing.
“All that’s happened is Bradford Council has now asked the combined authority for its own money back to appoint a consultant.
“Why has it taken over 12 months to get to this stage?
“It also raises questions about why Bradford is having to jump through hoops with the combined authority to get permission to access money for its own project.
“This funding was given specifically for the footbridge feasibility study. I expect the council to fight to ensure all the money is allocated to this project and not have a pittance go towards the study and the rest elsewhere on other combined authority priorities.”
Cllr Naylor says that until the study is carried out, no evaluation can be made of whether a footbridge at the site – close to the Silsden/Steeton roundabout – will be possible or the cost involved.
He added: “I’m keen to see the results of the feasibility study, to determine if a footbridge would be practical.
“The money is there, so the study should be done as soon as possible so we can examine whether it’s something that can be practically delivered.
“People want to know if it’s going to be feasible.”
Steeton-with-Eastburn Parish Council chairman, Councillor David Mullen, said a footbridge was desperately needed.
“We’re in favour of the idea of a bridge because crossing that road is the only way for pedestrians to get between Steeton and Silsden and it’s like trying to cross Silverstone race track,” he added.
“We have been working with Silsden Town Council on a neighbourhood plan for some time and this footbridge is included.
“But we need to know whether the project is going to be feasible – and as soon as possible.”
Bradford Council says work on the scheme is “continuing”.
A spokesman said: “The funding from the Department of Transport came without a time limit and was allocated to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority so it could be accessed through its governance processes, which include committees made-up of elected councillors to ensure transparency and accountability.
“We’ve submitted a successful expression of interest to develop a feasibility study.
“It’s anticipated that the bridge will cost in the region of £6 million so the current Section 106 monies represent just a tiny fraction of that and more funding will need to be secured to complete the scheme.
“Investment in infrastructure is an important part of the planning process and is an essential consideration of our Local Plan. However, infrastructure is expensive and major projects can take some time.
“Nonetheless work is continuing on the Steeton/Silsden footbridge project and we look forward to working with Cllr Naylor and others who have taken an interest such as John Grogan MP, to secure all the necessary funding in the future.”
Mr Grogan, Keighley’s MP, said the combined authority had now released £200,000 to Bradford Council so a consultant could be hired.
He added that a further £500,000 was available for the study as it progressed.
Mr Grogan said the footbridge would be debated at a meeting on June 1.
“We will be discussing various major traffic issues in Steeton and Silsden – including the proposed bridge but also subjects such as the lack of a footpath from the hospital to the railway station, congestion at the hospital and in Silsden etc,” he said.
“All interested organisations will be involved.”
The combined authority was invited by the Keighley News to comment, but hadn’t responded at the time of going to press.