A historic footbridge forming part of the Wales Coastal Path has been shut due to safety concerns, meaning the path will be permanently diverted.
The grade-II listed Newbridge Road footbridge was closed after an inspection on June 3 revealed the bridge to be structurally unsound and a risk to public safety.
The bridge forms part of both the National Welsh Coastal Pathway and National Cycle Route No 4. But the closure of the bridge means that both routes are on temporary diversion away from the coastline and along the main road, with permanent diversions being currently being consulted with Neath Port Talbot planning officials and SUSTRANS.
Neath Port Talbot Council have owned the bridge since 1996 and say they carried out minor repairs and maintenance work to prolong public access. But over time the bridge has fallen further into disrepair, and following its sudden closure there are no plans by the council to restore or replace the popular route due to a lack of funds.
A Neath Port Talbot Council spokesperson said:
“The bridge was closed within 24 hours of the inspection report being reviewed by engineers in the interest of public safety.”
However, temporary fencing to prevent use of the bridge has been pushed aside as people seek to continue to access the popular route.
The council spokesman warned pedestrians to say off the bridge.
“The bridge is beyond repair however the stone abutments and piers are in fair condition with only settlement cracks and some open joints. The bridge will now be permanently closed to public access and steel fencing erected.”
On social media local people bemoaned the loss of a well-used route, which many people use on their daily commute.
Other users complained of the abandonment of an important piece of the town’s heritage.
On Facebook, Mr Sean Pursey said: “I’m passionate about heritage and the state of the bridge really angers me, its one of the few pieces of heritage we have in Sandfields. Its a great piece of engineering and is part of our industrial past – being built to serve the docks over 100 years ago.”
The Edwardian bridge, built in 1903, spans the width of the river Afan and links Sandfields to the docks. Originally a two-carriageway road bridge, it was built following the expansion of the docks during the 1890s.
The bridge became grade-II listed in 2000 as a finely detailed plate-girder bridge, unusual at this date for carrying a strategic road rather than a railway. The bridge is also of historical significance due to its association with the development of the Port Talbot docks.
The grade II listed status of the bridge will require Neath Port Talbot Council to discuss the future of the bridge with CADW.