A controversial £2m bridge across the Grand Union Canal in Harborough could have been constructed at a less contentious spot away from existing homes.
All it would have taken was a more flexible developer and a more demanding district council, says Jim Jacobs, steward of the Market Harborough and the Bowdens Charity, which owns the land where the new bridge could have gone.
“The problem was the developer had no intention whatsoever to build the bridge anywhere other than where they originally designed it,” claimed Mr Jacobs. “And the council’s fear was that if they forced the developer to move the bridge the developer would appeal – especially as the bridge design had already been approved by the county council – and Harborough District Council would lose the appeal, with costs against them.
“And of course both developer and council very much wanted these plans to move forward.”
The new bridge, approved last Monday at the extraordinary planning meeting of Harborough Council as part of the 924-home Airfield Farm plan, will link the huge new estate to Leicester Road, just north of The Woodlands.
But the location of the bridge has been questioned by residents, the Old Union Canals Society and politicians of both main parties on Harborough Council.
Objectors say the bridge is too close to existing housing, will spoil a conservation area, and will result in the loss of a 92-year-old footbridge and 40 mature trees.
Mr Jacobs claimed the district council knew alternative land “had always been available” and letters had been sent to the council to confirm just that.
But John Coleman, of developers William Davis, argued at the meeting that the new bridge provided “optimum linkage to the town centre”.
Councillors gave outline permission for the scheme, and the bridge, by seven votes to three.