A turf-cutting ceremony has marked the start of work on a ‘much-needed’ new footbridge in Sidmouth.
The structure spanning the River Sid is expected to be finished by spring next year.
It will replace the historic Alma Bridge and be sited 40metres upstream from the existing walkway.
Sidmouth representative Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council (DCC) cabinet member with responsibility for bridges, said: “I’m delighted that work on this much-needed bridge has begun.
“The former bridge has withstood the test of time and tide well, but time has come to build the new bridge across the Sid, linking to the South West Coast Path.
“Residents and visitors to the town will see a huge improvement, with the new bridge wider, more accessible and with a viewing platform and seating area incorporated into the design.
“It will also lift that end of The Esplanade, which is seeing more investment with plans to redevelop the Drill Hall as a popular restaurant.”
DCC has appointed Mac Plant Construction Ltd as the contractor for the scheme, which was granted planning approval last November.
A seating and viewing area will be provided on the upper section on the east side of the new bridge.
A ‘relatively short’ sections of ramp – matching the gradients of the Hanger Path – will connect to the bridge and provide access for residents east of the town.
A seating area and information board will be provided on the west side of the existing Alma Bridge. These will commemorate the position of previous structures, which have been in place for more than a century.
Alma Bridge was designed by local architect RW Sampson in the early 1900s.
It will be closed for the duration of the work, with a signed inland diversion route. Emergency access steps from the east beach will be maintained at all times.
The new Sidmouth bridge scheme is expected to be completed in spring 2020, weather permitting.
This will ensure the adjacent Ham recreational ground is open and in use for the summer season and the folk festival, says DCC.