New footbridges have been introduced in Richmondshire as part of a pioneering shift to find a more future-proof alternative.
When replacing damaged timber bridges, North Yorkshire County Council has been sourcing those made of a fibre reinforced polymer (FRP) material which is widely used in boat and car manufacturing.
A deciding factor is the 120 year plus design life; almost five or six times the expected life of steel.
They are anti-slip, won’t rot or break and require very little maintenance.
The bridges are made in Holland and have been used on nationwide design projects.
Although some firms in England use the material, none currently supply the type of single span bridges the County Council is looking for.
The first FRP footbridge in North Yorkshire was installed in Bird Ridding, at Coverham, near Middleham, in 2016 after the trees damaged the lightweight steel frame footbridge and it became rotten with the supporting joints severely damaged.
“At the time FRP bridges became a viable option as the long-term costs compare very well with the cost of a steel bridge,” said County Councillor Don Mackenzie, executive member for access.
“Unlike steel bridges they do not require a lot of maintenance; they don’t need painting every 25 years, are resistant to even the most extreme weather conditions and only require occasional cleaning.
“The first bridge in Bird Ridding was well-received by the local community as each bridge is designed to suit the location.
“It shows that we are being forward-thinking in sourcing these future-proof bridges which fit very well in North Yorkshire’s conservation areas.”
The old footbridge on Low Green in Great Ayton was replaced with an FRP alternative as the bridges team could install a single span bridge which is in-keeping with other wooden bridges downstream and does not need painting during its lifetime.
The most recent FRP footbridge has been installed in Low Faggergill, near Whaw, in Arkengarthdale, as due to flood damage the span of the new bridge was so great a timber footbridge was not viable.
The FRP option was deemed cheaper than a steel beam bridge and the longevity was a deciding factor.
Councillor Mackenzie added: “There are many practical benefits in the use of FRP for certain of our bridges. It provides a very strong structure but is much lighter than steel. It is easier to handle and lift, saving time and money on construction costs, especially in remote areas.
“We will continue to ensure that each new or replacement bridge is in keeping with the local environment.
“We are confident that the FRP bridges will stand the test of time and provide appealing structures for everyone who uses them.”