A Norfolk MP is piling pressure on the Nation Trust to honour its promise to rebuild a “much-loved and vital” bridge in Stiffkey.  

The National Trust controversially removed a wooden footbridge at Stiffkey Marshes last year. North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker is demanding that the charity replace the crossing, which fed-up locals have been without for 18 months.  

The footbridge had been in the marshes for more than half a century, but the trust removed it in March 2023 after claiming it had become rotten and unsafe due to erosion.  

North Norfolk News: The original Stiffkey bridge, which was removed by the National Trust in March last year The original Stiffkey bridge, which was removed by the National Trust in March last year (Image: Justin Minns)

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However, Mr Baker says the trust has never revealed the official surveyors report detailing the reasons behind the removal of the bridge.  

Mr Baker said in parliament on Thursday (October 19), said: “Today, the evidence to remove that bridge is shrouded in mystery. 

“Despite asking, I and residents - and indeed National Trust members - have been denied to ever see the structural surveyors report, but we are told it exists.” 

Mr Baker called for “openness and transparency” from the National Trust, and questioned whether an organisation “designed to protect heritage for the nation” should be “doing the opposite by prohibiting people from accessing the very spaces they want to enjoy”. 

North Norfolk News: North Norfolk MP Duncan BakerNorth Norfolk MP Duncan Baker (Image: Stuart Anderson)

The National Trust has told locals they will have to wait until autumn 2024 for a new bridge to built.  

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The trust will seek planning permission for the 20-metre long bridge by next spring and it is expected to cost around £250,000.  

£21,500 has already been spent by the charity on designing the bridge and exploring the required permissions.  

With no way of crossing the marshes, locals have raised safety concerns after being cut-off and stranded in high tide.  

In the absence of a safe crossing, two temporary structures have since appeared across the marshes – with the first being removed by the National Trust in what locals called “an early morning raid”, and its replacement is still standing.  

A National Trust spokesperson said: “The National Trust understands this is a cause for concern in the local community. Senior representatives from the Trust have engaged regularly with local residents, most recently attending a Parish Council meeting on 25 September at which Mr Baker was present.

“Earlier this week we also arranged for Duncan Baker to speak with our independent Structural Engineer, who confirmed during the conversation that two chartered structural engineers from his practice had appraised the bridge. He described the deficiencies of the old structure and has also agreed to attend a parish council meeting later in the year to share with the local community the advice he has given to the National Trust.

“We are focussed on our project to replace the bridge and improve access to the marshes. The National Trust’s primary concern in taking this action is to deliver a long-term solution that ensures public safety. We are progressing with our plans and following approval from Natural England, are currently carrying out surveys that will inform the design and foundations of the new bridge.”