A £3.3 million repair plan has been approved for Bideford s historic long bridge. Devon County Council s executive has agreed to repair defective reinforced concrete areas and install a cathodic protection system. This technique will stop the corrosion

A £3.3 million repair plan has been approved for Bideford's historic long bridge.Devon County Council's executive has agreed to repair defective reinforced concrete areas and install a "cathodic protection system."This technique will stop the corrosion process of the steel reinforcement by applying a small electrical current into the concrete. The council says this scheme will preserve and maintain the current form of the Grade One Listed structure for at least 60 years and also minimise disruption to traffic during construction.But the work will preserve rather than strengthen the bridge, so a three tonne weight restriction imposed five years ago, will remain.This was one of three options considered by the county, the others being a basic £2.3 million repair package and a £8.37 million scheme to replace the bridge's reinforced concrete cantilever footways.Inspections on the bridge last summer revealed significant deterioration of the cantilever footway, bringing fears that, if neglected, it would deteriorate further and could eventually result in the closure of the bridge.A section of the south-side footpath was closed as a safety precaution and temporary supports were installed to the concrete edge beams on two weakened spans.County support for the plan is subject to funding being rubber-stamped by the executive next month when it considers proposals for £2 million to be allocated in 2008/09 and £1.31 million in 2009/10.Further consultation will also be needed with English Heritage.Bideford's Mayor, Cllr David Ratcliffe, welcomed the news, butUpstreamsaid he hoped there would be future consideration of a new upstream bridge for the town. "This option of repair, albeit for a period of up to 60 years and with the current weight limit remaining permanently, safeguards this centrepiece of our historical heritage within our town," he said."I am pleased the logistical nightmare of re-routing traffic while work is being carried out will not be for the lengthy period we were first given a few years back, which would have created chaos and financial implications for Bideford. As our town is expanding with new developments, both residential and commercial, I hope we can remain focused and that we will, sooner rather than later, look toward the consideration of a new upstream bridge and allow the 'grand old lady' to carry on her work."Cllr Humphrey Temperley, county councillor for Bideford South and Hartland, said: "It's a great relief to the people of the town that they won't have to endure a long series of bridge closures while this work is carried out. There's a great deal of support for this work and I have to thank our officers for finding a solution."Cllr Hugo Barton, county councillor for Bideford East, said: "I'm pleased that after much consultation and debate we have what I think is a good solution to the bridge - a bridge of local and national importance. This will give a long-term, cost effective, solution and done in a way that will, hopefully, cause minimal disruption to the town.