There has been some comment recently on social media with respect to work presently taking place at the Milltown Bridge. Craigadick Road, Maghera. In particular it has been suggested that Maghera Historical Society advised the relevant authorities that “its an old bridge but has no historical significance” (sic). That could not be further from the truth and we are sure members of MHS will appreciate knowing the factual involvement of MHS in this matter.
The changes to this bridge were initially drawn to our attention in March 2015 by one of our very vigilant committee members who is passionate about saving and preserving all historical sites and buildings in this area. He had seen the proposed replacement of the bridge listed in a draft Local Transport and Safety Measures Programme – Bridges 2015-2017.
We made some enquirers about what was to happen and were appalled to learn that the plan was indeed to completely demolish and replace this old bridge which dates back to c1800. We immediately wrote to DRD Road Services reminding them that the bridge was part of the Historical Built Heritage of Maghera. We drew their attention to the following facts
• that the bridge had been built c1800 as part of an old Coach Road
• it is typical of the earliest masonry bridges with the hump backed nature of its carriageway being imposed by the semi-circular arch supports
• As the bridge lies within a Local Landscape Area as determined in the Magherafelt Area Plan 2015 we did not feel the removal of the bridge would be in the spirit of the stated objective “planning permission will not be granted to development proposals that would adversely affect their intrinsic environmental value and character’’
We also expressed our concern that the bridge was being replaced because it was structurally unsound yet it was still open to all traffic without even a weight limit being imposed. We also pointed out that the bridge as it stands serves a safety function by necessarily slowing down speeding traffic. We felt that the removal of the bridge in its present form had the potential to increase incidents of speeding and would likely lead to calls for speed ramps along this stretch of road.
We enquired whether it would be possible to construct a footbridge on the side of the bridge nearest to the Milltown houses and we also suggested that a small amenity area for local residents could be incorporated into the plan.
We restated the Society’s dedication to the preservation of our cultural and built environment and we asked DRD to reconsider their decision. Our letter was signed by all the committee members of the MHS.
In response to our letter a site meeting was arranged with a representative of Bridges Section of Transport NI Omagh. At the meeting in April 2015, which included representatives of the MHS, the case for protecting and maintaining the bridge in its current form was strongly put forward. We came away reassured that any work undertaken to strengthen the bridge would be sympathetic to the preservation of the current structure.
We pursued this matter with DRD – transportni in November 2015. We were told they were actively considering various design options to enable them to construct a footway/cycleway on Craigadick Road and to address strengthening issues at Milltown Bridge. We were also assured that when complete the bridge would look very similar to its historic appearance.
The committee of MHS assure our members that we will continue to be pro-active in the preservation of our built heritage. We would also suggest that others with an interest in preserving our built heritage become active members of MHS.