Finchingfield fears 'England's most photographed village' could be cut in two by bridge repair

  • ITV News Anglia's Hannah Pettifer spoke to business owners concerned at the plans

Plans to rebuild a bridge in a village often dubbed "the most photographed in England" will cut the community in two for nearly a year, critics have complained.

The brick bridge over the pond in the picturesque village of Finchingfield in Essex is a well-known beauty spot and featured on the route of the Tour de France when it came to the county in 2014.

But proposals to repair its crumbling structure could see the crossing closed for almost a year and leave drivers facing a 16-mile detour - which business owners say would deter shoppers and deprive them of passing trade.

Jacqui Braithwaite, who runs the Finchingfield Lion, said the impact would be devastating.

"It's such a big detour to not have that bridge working - nobody will come near us," she said.

“It's just heartbreaking, all these villages are dying and this one isn't. This one's hanging on, it's special - it really is as lovely as it seems and it will just kill us."

Jacqui Braithwaite of the Finchingfield Lion fears for the impact on her business. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Mary Turley, of the Wonky Wheel Gallery in the village, said the effect would not just be felt by her business, but by the dozens of artists she represents.

"It's heartbreaking, my gallery is my passion and representing over 50 artists is my passion and that's what I want to do,” she said. 

“But without the bridge and without being able to open properly that's not going to happen next year, probably."

Essex Highways said that the bridge was deteriorating and could not be strengthened, and is regularly hit by passing vehicles.

It has already been closed for exploratory works, during which time local businesses saw a drop in footfall, given its position at a junction bringing together traffic from six different directions.

Jane Welsh, of Finchingfield Post Office and Stores, said: “The last time this bridge was closed for any amount of time we lost about 60% of our business. 

“It's not a very big bridge - it's not the Forth bridge, it's a tiny bridge - but for Finchingfield and the surrounding areas it is as important as the Forth bridge."

The road across the bridge brings together traffic from six different directions. Credit: PA

A footpath will still connect the two sides of the village, allowing pedestrians to cross.

The Friends of Finchingfield conservation group has also raised concerns about whether the work is necessary at all.

A planning application is expected to be submitted by Essex Highways in the summer, after which a public consultation will be held for villagers and businesses to have their say.

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