A public footbridge at a natural beauty spot that fell into dangerous disrepair has been restored for the community.

Thanks to Blackburn with Darwen Council working in partnership with local stakeholders, the footbridge, in Belmont, has been repaired so people can now walk across it safely. 

Ward’s Reservoir – or the Blue Lagoon as it’s known locally – is where Belmont public footpaths 47 and 48 pass, and it’s a popular beauty spot for both local residents and visitors.

Blackburn with Darwen’s executive member for growth and development, Cllr Phil Riley said: “It’s fantastic to see this footbridge restored so that residents and visitors can enjoy a walk across Ward’s Reservoir.

"Thanks our Environment team for their determination, working hard to find long term solutions to the complex issues around land ownership and maintenance which saw this bridge fall out of use.

"Thanks to our project partners Belmont Village Residents Association, United Utilities, and Peak and Northern Footpath Society.

"We can now enjoy the Blue Lagoon for years to come.”

The history of the site is complex. Sometime before 1956, a structure was altered by North West Water to help manage the inlet stream – the Great Gutte – that leads into reservoir.

There’s a public right of way crossing the stream via a small bridge, as seen in the picture below, which offers people on foot a circular route of the reservoir.

Lancashire Telegraph:

But this structure was replaced by North West Water when they altered the Great Gutte, who also took ownership of the bridge.

The footbridge funding required Blackburn with Darwen Council to adopt the bridge, undertake future maintenance, and repair a land slip on another part of the path at their cost.

Over the passing years, the land changed ownership and the original structure and bridge fell into disrepair, becoming dangerous and unusable.

Since those walking in the area were unable to cross using the bridge, people often waited for when the water level was low enough to walk down and round the bottom.

Despite numerous requests from Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council, local councillors and residents, the owners of the land did not maintain the old bridge, letting down the local community and all public footpath users in the area.

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In 1990 Lancashire County Council, utilising their general responsibility for footpaths in the borough, were forced to serve notice to the land owner and then remove the unsafe bridge.

Subsequently with the bridge taken away, the public could still only pass over the Great Gutte on days where the water level was low.

In 2019 Belmont Village Residents Association (BVRA) secured funding for a new bridge from Peak and Northern Footpaths Society (PNFS).

The terms of the funding required Blackburn with Darwen Council to adopt the bridge, undertake future maintenance, and repair a land slip on another part of the path at their cost.

Lancashire Telegraph: The restored bridgeThe restored bridge

In March 2020 the council appointed a local contractor, Sancus Civil Engineering, to undertake work both the bridge build and the land slip.

As the bridge is on a popular, local site of natural beauty and the contractor has a personal connection to it, a low bid was submitted to win the work.

While completing the job the contractor even undertook additional works at no extra cost to the council, as a matter of pride for the area and the community the bridge serves.

Lancashire Telegraph: The restored bridgeThe restored bridge

To enable nature lovers to enjoy the area better, United Utilities currently provide a carpark to the west of the route, and a concessionary path from the carpark to the reservoir.

A Peak and Northern Footpaths Society spokesperson said: ‘The Society is proud to have helped Blackburn with Darwen Council find a solution that will enable locals and visitors to enjoy the circular walk around the reservoir.’