National Highways infilled a 175-year-old Yorkshire bridge based on a capacity assessment carried out three years prior. A Freedom of Information (FoI) request submitted by campaigners reveals that the Rugate Road Bridge was infilled in April 2021 despite the lack of a recent condition report. National Highways confirmed to NCE that the infill was carried out based on the capacity assessment conducted in 2018. A spokesperson for the roads body added that while the 2018 report was used as grounds for infill, a detailed examination of the structure was also carried out in March 2021 ahead of the work. It was infilled using emergency powers known as Class Q permitted development rights, which allows National Highways to carry out temporary construction work without planning permission “to prevent harm to the public”. They are the same powers which were used to infill the Great Musgrave bridge in Cumbria which led to a nationwide backlash and eventual pause on National Highways’ bridge infilling programme (see box below). Under the terms of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Act, Class Q permitted development rights allow a developer to carry out work without obtaining planning consent in cases of an “emergency”.

Campaigners Claim that Basing the Works on a Report.

from 2018 does not constitute an “emergency”. They also suggest that the findings of the 2018 report do not justify infilling. The 2018 report describes the structure’s overall condition as “Fair”, with some minor defects. The examiner’s recommendation was to repair fencing at a cost of £1,000, but a note appended by National Highways’ engineer states “infilling preferable to repairs”. “The structure was fundamentally fine”, said Graeme Bickerdike, a member of The HRE Group which comprises engineers, sustainable transport advocates and greenway developers. “Without more-recent reports, National Highways had no evidence of deterioration and its claim that urgent work was needed is therefore unsustainable. “This was decision-making by guesswork and suggests a destructive culture whereby infrastructure assets were being put beyond use – at great cost to the taxpayer – just to reduce liabilities, rather than on the basis of proportionate risk assessment and value for money.” Dating from 1846, Rudgate Road Bridge spanned the dismantled Harrogate-Church Fenton railway line.

It is part of the Historical Railways Estate Managed.

by National Highways on behalf of the DfT which comprises 3,100 bridges, tunnels and viaducts, including 77 listed structures. Jacobs acts as the “sole provider” (designer) for the Historical Railways Estate with six contractors supporting Jacobs in carrying out any work, including Dyer & Butler and Balfour Beatty. National Highways head of the Historical Railways Estate programme Hélène Rossiter said: “We infilled Rudgate Road Bridge in April 2021 because we viewed it as a public safety risk following its failure of a capacity assessment we carried out in 2018. The bridge had already been partially infilled by a third party and there were ongoing issues with deteriorating brickwork caused by significant vegetation growth. “Prior to carrying out the work we consulted with the local authority which confirmed it had no objections or comments on the proposed infilling.” The infill took five weeks to carry out and cost £133,000. The bridge is one of four controversial infills which the HRE Group claims has “questionable legal status” and could be reversed.