One of Britain’s most iconic bridges is under threat after cracks appeared in its structure, it emerged today.
Pulteney Bridge in Bath, Somerset, frequently features in period TV dramas AND is one of only four bridges in the world to hold shops.
But a 6ft foot long crack in the basement of the Bridge Cafe – which was previously filled in with mortar – has crumbled and is now causing ”further movement” in the structure.
Scaffolding will now be erected underneath the Grade 1 listed bridge, which stands over the River Avon.
There are now plans to ban all transport from the iconic bridge, which was built in 1773 and is lined by 11 shops on both sides including a florist and miniatures shop.
Buses have already re-routed their services and Bath and North East Somerset Council are considering the impact of further closure on local traders.
A council spokesman said there was ”no immediate danger of collapse” but admitted attempts to fill cracks had failed.
He said: ”There was evidence of previous structural repairs at, and close to, the support of the end gable wall of the building above.
”This long standing repair had failed again which resulted in further movement and opening of the cracks previously filled with mortar.
”A temporary scaffolding system will be erected in the basement to support the reinforced concrete floor slab and external facade to facilitate permanent works at a later date.”
He added that the bridge was ”not designed” for modern day traffic and the council plans to shut it were to improve ”accessibility and safety” for pedestrians and cyclists.
Bath Preservation Trust chief executive Caroline Kay said measures needed to be taken to protect the landmark.
She said: ”We have got a fantastic iconic structure which is used worldwide and as such it needs to be well looked after.
”There is clearly some damage which needs to be treated and looked after and that is the right way to protect this bridge.
”But it has had some much scarier moments in its history.”
A spokesman for the Conservatives – who hold the majority on the council – called the bridge ”an iconic piece of Bath’s heritage”.
He said: ”It’s extremely important that this bridge is preserved for future generations to use and enjoy, so protecting the bridge must be of paramount importance.”
”With regard to the cracks which have recently been investigated, the council has been advised that there is no immediate danger to the bridge and steps are being taken to secure the structure until further work can be undertaken.”