Repairs to Austin’s Bridge at Buckfastleigh are underway and progressing well.
The Grade Two Listed Bridge, which dates from 1749, was damaged during Storm Dennis in February and has been closed since then as a safety precaution.
Two separate scaffold platforms have been erected over the course of the past week. These scaffolds are not only supporting the men’s working platform, but they have also undergone a rigorous design process to ensure they protect the bridge from further damage.
The stones from the damaged “cut water” defences on two of the piers of the structure were painstakingly retrieved from the river by a dive team. These stones were then marked up, creating a “jigsaw” to allow them to fit in their specific locations.
It is hoped the scheme will be complete and the road open again by the end of Friday (15 May).
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: “The temporary protective sheets placed in front of the piers have saved the structure from further damage until repairs could be carried out, but we have had to keep the bridge closed for public safety. The recent dry weather has lowered the water levels of the river enough to help the teams undertake the repairs, but it’s still a fast-flowing river so it’s not an easy job by any means.
“As much of the original granite as possible has been recovered from the river, and our bridge engineers have been working with conservation officers and English Heritage as it’s crucial that every effort is made to repair the listed bridge on a like for like basis. Everyone is working hard to achieve this and to re-open the road by the end of next week."
Councillor Stuart Barker, Devon County Councillor for Ashburton and Buckfastleigh, said: "Following the terrible news that this iconic bridge had been damaged it is great news that it's being repaired sympathetically to restore its original form using the original granite stones recovered from the river. The bridge has featured in many publications and at one time was on the front cover of the then Buckfastleigh Tourism booklet which attracted visitors.
"We are fortunate to have the services of Marine and Civils who have a wide experience of repairing ancient river bridges in this area. Re-opening the bridge relatively quickly after it was damaged will be good for the local businesses and residents who use the bridge on a daily basis."
Work is being carried out by contractor Marine & Civil Solutions.