Dangerous footbridge restored to Blue Lagoon
A public walkway located in a natural site fallen into disrepair has been restored for the community.
Thanks to the work of Blackburn and Darwen City Council in partnership with local responders, the footbridge in Belmont has been repaired so people can now cross it safely.
Ward Reservoir – or the Blue Lagoon as it’s known locally – is where Belmont’s public trails 47 and 48 pass, and it’s a popular beauty spot for local residents and visitors alike.
Blackburn with executive member of Darwen for Growth and Development, Cllr Phil Riley, said: “It’s fantastic to see this walkway restored so residents and visitors can enjoy a walk through Ward Reservoir. .
“Thank you to our Environment team for their determination, who have worked hard to find long-term solutions to the complex land ownership and maintenance issues that have rendered this bridge out of service.
“Thank you 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. Some time before 1956, a structure was altered by North West Water to help manage the inlet stream – the Great Gutte – which leads to the reservoir.
There is a public right-of-way crossing the stream via a small bridge, as shown in the photo below, which provides pedestrians with a circular route from the reservoir.
But this structure was replaced by North West Water when they modified the Great Gutte, which also took possession of the bridge.
Funding for the footbridge forced Blackburn and Darwen’s council to adopt the bridge, undertake future maintenance, and repair a landslide on another part of the road at their own expense.
Over the years, the land changed ownership and the original structure and bridge fell into disrepair, becoming unsafe and unusable.
Since those who walked in the area could not cross using the bridge, people often waited until the water level was low enough to come down and around the bottom.
Despite numerous requests from Lancashire County Council, Blackburn with Darwen Council, local councilors and residents, the owners of the land failed to maintain the old bridge, leaving the local community and all trail users down audiences in the region.
In 1990 Lancashire County Council, using its overall responsibility for trails in the borough, was forced to notify the owner of the land and then remove the dangerous bridge.
Subsequently, the bridge being removed, the public could still cross the Grande Gutte only on days when the water level was low.
In 2019, the Belmont Village Residents Association (BVRA) secured funding for a new bridge from the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society (PNFS).
Terms of the funding required Blackburn and Darwen’s council to adopt the bridge, undertake future maintenance, and repair a landslide on another part of the road at their own expense.
In March 2020, the council appointed a local contractor, Sancus Civil Engineering, to undertake the construction of the bridge and landslide.
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 work at no additional cost to the board, a matter of pride for the area and community served by the bridge.
To allow nature lovers to better enjoy the area, United Utilities currently provides parking to the west of the course, and a concealed path from the parking lot to the reservoir.
A spokesperson for the Peak and Northern Footpaths Society said: “The society is proud to have helped Blackburn and Darwen’s council find a solution that will allow locals and visitors to enjoy the circular walk around the reservoir. ”