An iconic bridge which sits in the middle of Luton’s ‘jewel in the crown’ park could be reopened in time for the height of summer.
The 106-year-old Wardown Park Bridge has been closed to the public since July 2012, when a survey prior to the Love Luton festival found it had ‘weak and corroded elements’.
Work on its restoration started on Tuesday and the Herald & Post can confirm that the expected completion date is June 7.
That timescale is slightly behind what was indicated in original planning documents, which suggested that an eight-week work programme would be conducted from mid February to mid April.
However it means that the bridge will be open again for its first summer in three years.
Early estimates put the repair costs at £200,000, though last April the Herald & Post revealed that the total hallooned by a further £100,000 due to extra work needed on the bridge’s piers, timber beams, bolts and cable connections.
Luton Borough Council explored the possibilty of a Heritage Lottery Grant Fund but were told to abandon a bid as it ‘would be unlikely to succeed’, before later allocating up to £306,000 for the project from a £4m underspend in its 2013-14 budget.
After appointing contractor Arup to draw up plans for the refurbishment, a full planning application was submitted by the council’s parks office based at Wardown.
In a heritage document included in the application it was said that the main goal of the project is to “restore the structure as closely as possible to its post-1953 appearance”.
The ‘weak and corroded elements’ which caused the closure in 2012 are to be replaced along with cables and saddle bearings.
The tops of the bridge’s towers will be reconstructed where cracking is found, while the timber decking will also be replaced with timber similar to that which would have been used on the original 1908 structure.
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