VILLAGE campaigners are fighting to the death to save a century-old bridge threatened with demolition.

 More than 4,000 supporters have signed a petition aiming to prevent the replacement of the 117-year-old Boxted Bridge despite Essex County Council saying it must come down.

At a county council meeting, Boxted parish councillor Arabella Brentnall called for the bridge to be restored.

The county council’s Highways department inspected the bridge in 2018, finding major faults requiring urgent works.

Gazette: Artist's impression: How the new Boxted Bridge would look Artist's impression: How the new Boxted Bridge would look

The parish council said: “The bridge is a great example of the then popular steel girder construction.

“It spans the River Stour connecting Essex with Suffolk, affording lovely views of the mill pond and Grade 2 listed Boxted Mill.

“This picturesque beauty spot features in paintings by famous English artists including Sir Alfred Munnings, John Nash and Anthony Atkinson.

“Colchester Council recognised the importance of Boxted Bridge by adding it to the local list as a heritage asset.”

The parish council called for a planning application to be submitted to allow interested parties to comment on the plans to replace the bridge.

It added: “The parish council has repeatedly asked Highways to restore the heritage bridge, which was recommended in their own options report of 2018.

“It also estimated to build a new bridge was the costliest option and would see these roads closed for up to a year.”

But at the meeting, Kevin Bentley, Essex county councillor responsible for highways, said the bridge is an “ageing structure, nearing the end of its natural lifespan”.

Gazette: Damage: Cracks showing in the structure of Boxted BridgeDamage: Cracks showing in the structure of Boxted Bridge

He said: “It does not lend itself to the type of repairs required without replacing the majority of the structure.”

An Essex Highways spokesman added: “Options for this situation have been carefully considered, the bridge is in a condition where replacement is necessary and the most viable solution.

“The proposed replacement bridge will be visually similar, only much, much safer for all vehicles.

“The new bridge will be built to current standards, providing the community with a long term solution without compromising safety or the area of outstanding natural beauty.”