The 'massive' project to construct a permanent replacement bridge in Pooley Bridge following the devastation of Storm Desmond nearly five years ago is almost complete.

A major milestone in the project was reached yesterday, with the removal of the temporary footbridge which has helped keep Pooley Bridge open for business since construction began in September last year.

Pooley Bridge, a popular tourist destination in the north Lakes, just a stone’s throw from Ullswater, was hard-hit by Storm Desmond in December 2015, when its namesake across the River Eamont was washed away by ferocious floodwaters.

A temporary replacement bridge was put in place in early 2016, reconnecting Pooley Bridge with the A592 which runs through the heart of the Lake District - a vital link for the village and many of its businesses.

Visitors to Pooley Bridge have been using the temporary footbridge to reach the village since works began on the permanent replacement bridge in September 2019.

But yesterday the temporary footbridge was removed in a welcome sign that the construction project is nearing completion.

The Cumbria County Council project, carried out by contractors Eric Wright Civil Engineering Ltd, together with their design partner GHD, is on course to see traffic once again passing over the River Eamont by the October half term holiday next month.

Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s Highways and Transport cabinet member, said the milestone was “massive” for the Pooley Bridge community.

“I was there with the community on the day after the bridge went down, with the minister for state at the time.

“They were obviously absolutely devastated.”

“We were able to work with them and get a temporary bridge in place, which has been very much appreciated by them.

“Over these last 12 months, they have been able to watch the construction of the new bridge after a five year period.”

Mr Little said he was grateful to the Pooley Bridge community for their patience, and was glad that yesterday’s “massive step forward” in the removal of the temporary footbridge indicated the project was not far from completion.

“Hopefully, over the next few weeks up to mid-October, the final few steps in the construction process should be completed, as well as a tidy up of the area and some further work on the car park area, and the drainage on the approach road,” he said.

“Hopefully, that will be at some point between the middle and the end of October, so that the traffic can get flowing and hopefully the half term holiday will bring them some further tourism.

“We have promised residents that the county council and its contractors will work collectively to make sure that we get the place ship-shape, and open for mid to late October.”

Mr Little added that the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had inevitably resulted in a delay, but only of between six and eight weeks.

“Fortunately, our contractors have been able to work with the county council around all the necessary health and safety and social distancing measures,” he said.

He added that the final cost of the project will “run closer to £7m than the originally £5.5m we were looking at in the earlier stages”.

“But the funding is there, it’s in place, and we’ll meet the costs.”

Pedestrians will be able to walk across the new bridge for the first time from tomorrow.

The new bridge is the first stainless steel road bridge of its kind in the, and has been designed to provide resilience against extreme bad weather.