Flowing along nicely: work to reopen the river on course to start within days

posted 13 Mar 2015, 02:41 by Rochdale TC

The transformation of a key part of Rochdale town centre gets underway next week, with contractors set to start uncovering Rochdale’s River Roch and reveal its stunning medieval bridge.

Plans to uncover the 800-year-old bridge, which has been hidden from view for over 100 years, were given the green light in December last year when the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) granted £1.2m to the scheme.

Now the project, which is also backed by the Environment Agency and the Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, is taking shape, with hoardings set to be erected around the Butts area from Monday. (March 16th)

VBA Ltd has been appointed to carry out the painstaking work. The contractor is a joint venture of three well-known companies who have combined to undertake works under the “Water and Environment Management” framework. Between them they have worked on major projects including the Lancaster Flood Defence system, Metrolink and Heysham Power Station.

They will spend next week clearing the site, before breaking ground on Monday 23 March. This work will see them cutting through just over half a metre of concrete to remove the culvert, which acts like a roof for the river. The team are hoping to have the river bed and three-metre high walls exposed by June, depending on river levels.

Stage two of the work, which will start in the summer, will see extensive work on the bridge itself, with the erection of new parapets in traditional york stone, surface repaving and improvements to the stonework.    

The final stage of work, to uncover the section of the river on the other side of the bridge in front of Barclays Bank, will then begin.

Council Leader Richard Farnell, said: “Rochdale town centre is changing fast and it’s great to see another important project getting underway. We already have a beautiful historic attraction in our Grade 1 Listed Town Hall, and revealing our medieval bridge will be a further boost to our wonderful heritage offer. This will create a visitor attraction in the town and help make Rochdale a much more attractive place for the people who live and work here.”

Residents and visitors will be given a unique prospective on the scheme throughout the works, with viewing windows set to be placed along the section of hoardings running from the bottom of Yorkshire Street up to The Walk.

The scheme, which is a key part of Rochdale town centre’s ongoing £250m regeneration programme, will help to reduce flood risk in the town centre and create educational opportunities for the borough’s school and college students.

As well as uncovering and restoring the bridge, the project also includes measures to enhance the natural heritage of the river by introducing features that encourage river vegetation and creatures to re-establish themselves.

Mark Widdup, Director of Economy and Environment at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “The river opening is a very exciting development for the borough and it’s great to see this project getting underway. We’re working closely with businesses to minimise disruption and people should still be able to move around the town centre in much the same way for most of the construction period. At some point during the scheme, the roundabout which links Yorkshire Street, The Esplanade and South Parade, will be removed, but this will be managed through occasional lane closures.”