A 133-year-old pedestrian and cycle bridge near Rock Park in Barnstaple is set to be closed for ‘many months’, Devon County Council (DCC) has confirmed.

The former railway bridge over the River Taw which links Rock Park and Seven Brethren was closed last month for safety reasons after an underwater inspection found a structural defect in the large iron columns supporting the bridge.

Now DCC has warned the closure will last ‘many months’ as it develops a plan to stabilise and repair the structure.

The bridge needs to be stabilised before repair work can begin, and the council has warned it is a complex operation which will require specialist equipment.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, DCC cabinet member with responsibility for bridges, said: “Our priority is public safety and thankfully our robust inspection regime has identified the problem.

“Our engineers are at an early stage in designing the scheme and timescales are not yet known, but it’s likely it will be many months before the bridge can be re-opened.

“However, we are committed to maintaining this vital link for local sustainable travel.”

Barnstaple South councillor John Mathews added: “The current closure is unfortunate but the defects which have been found present a risk both to the structure and to the public.

“The current closure will be inconvenient for many people but it is vital that a comprehensive structural repair is carefully prepared to safeguard the public and the future of this historic bridge.”

A signed diversion route for pedestrians and cyclists is in place via Barnstaple Longbridge. Members of the public are advised to allow additional time for their journeys.