New entrance bridge planned for Newhaven Fort

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Plans to replace Newhaven Fort’s entrance bridge have been signed off by the district council.

On Monday (September 16), Lewes District Council’s cabinet agreed to allocate up to £350,000 to replace the entrance bridge to Newhaven Fort.

According to council papers, the bridge has needed to be replaced since 2014, but – despite planning permission to do so – the only work to take place so far has been short term repairs.

Officers now say it is “no longer an option to delay decision”, warning that a long term solution is needed to ensure the safety of residents and visitors.

The plans for a new bridge were backed by Ruth O’Keeffe, cabinet member for tourism and devolution. She said: “You have few choices. We could say: ‘okay, we are going to take the bridge down and close the fort.’ That one I don’t feel is an option. 

“The second one is to keep doing temporary fixes  [but] temporary fixes tend to become more dangerous over time.

“The only one that really makes sense if you want to keep the fort open is to approve the mending of the bridge in a permanent way. 

“The costs have been obtained for a lot of scenarios and if you continued to do the temporary shoring up you would reach the [same] cost in a relatively short time. It would just be delaying something inevitable and ending up with a big cost.”

Cllr O’Keeffe added that in the long-term plans would be to attract an organisation like the National Trust to take ownership of the fort.

According to council papers, the cost of temporary repairs now stands at around £2,500 per week – around £130,000 per year – and could only last for another three to five years at most.

Other alternative options considered, which include comprehensive repairs and building an ‘over-bridge’, would only last up to 10 years, council officers said.

As a result, officers said, a replacement bridge is considered to be the most economical long-term option as it would have a lifespan of between 50 and 60 years.

The proposals received support from many cabinet members, including deputy leader (and ward councillor) James MacCleary.

He said: “This is going to be a good investment in the fort from my perspective as a resident and also someone who has the regeneration portfolio, which is very focused on Newhaven and investing in Newhaven. 

“I think this is really good early vote of confidence from this administration in Newhaven and its future.” 

Built in 1871, Newhaven Fort is classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It has been run by the Wave Leisure Trust since 2015, as part of a council management contract.

It currently operates at a small surplus, bringing in income of £322,923 in 2018/19 with Wave’s costs standing at £290,752.