A pedestrian and cycle bridge in Barnstaple will not be reopened to the public for at least another 12 months.

The 133-year-old former railway bridge in Rock Park needs major structural repairs before it can be opened again.

The bridge, which links Rock Park and Seven Brethren, was closed back in May for safety reasons after a routine inspection found structural defects to two wrought iron columns in the river channel.

The defective columns and two affected spans are set to be removed as part of the repair work. They will be replaced by a new single 60-metre span, while the other three spans of the bridge will remain unchanged.

As a new design for the bridge is still being developed, Devon County Council (DCC) has been unable to definitively say when work will be complete. Estimates suggest it will be at least 12 months.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member with responsibility for bridges, said public safety was the council’s paramount concern.

He added: “We have sought advice from a number of specialist contractors to assess the best options for repairing the bridge.

“It’s a complex project so it will take time for the scheme design to be fully developed before we can appoint a contractor.

“While we appreciate it is an inconvenience, we hope everyone will bear with us until we can get the bridge open safely again.”

A signed diversion for pedestrians and cyclists remains in place via Barnstaple Long Bridge.

Barnstaple South county councillor John Mathews said: “I am pleased we are able to save this historic bridge. It’s an iconic structure which is part of Barnstaple’s heritage and is well thought of by local people.

“The replacement span will ensure many years of service on this busy route and, of course, it will form an important part of Barnstaple’s growing cycle network.”