A long-running saga over the rebuilding of a bridge across the Stiffkey Marshes continues to cause tension between locals and the National Trust – with the charity sending a stern warning to defiant locals. 

But frustration is growing over how long it is taking to replace the bridge the Trust removed in March last year after declaring it structurally unsafe. 

The Trust, which owns the land, originally said it had no plans to replace the bridge, claiming it would be too expensive.  

But it later backtracked and promised to install a new crossing after pressure from local campaigners, who said lives were at risk, and a bridge would stop people getting cut off and stranded by high tides.

Fakenham & Wells Times: The original wooden bridge over Stiffkey MarshesThe original wooden bridge over Stiffkey Marshes (Image: Justin Minns)

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The charity said it hoped to have a new bridge in place ahead of summer 2022, but locals are still waiting for work to begin, 18 months on. 

In July this year, a mysterious temporary crossing - known as the ‘fairy bridge’ - appeared at the marshes.

But the Trust swiftly took this away, deeming it unsafe as well. 

Now, the charity has warned locals against trying to put up another improvised cross. 

A spokesman said: “Any further structures of this nature that are unlicensed and unconsented will also need to be removed”.

The Trust said a new bridge will cost £250,000 to build – and that it has already committed £20,000 in fees and surveys, to work towards submitting a formal planning application.

Ian Curtis, lifelong Stiffkey resident and bridge campaigner, said: “They’ve only said they’ve committed the money – anyone can say they will commit to something.

“I could say I'm going to commit £1 million to going to the moon – it doesn’t mean I’m actually going to do it.

“It means nothing – absolutely nothing. They could easily build a bridge for much less than £250,000 if they wanted to, but they don’t.

Fakenham & Wells Times: Ian Curtis, Stiffkey resident and bridge campaignerIan Curtis, Stiffkey resident and bridge campaigner (Image: Ian Curtis)

“Their objective is to keep people off the marsh – to keep them off their land. It’s like we’re back in medieval times.

“We’re no further forward now than we were when they first took the original bridge down - nothing has changed.

“The fairies told me it only cost them £20 for their bridge. If the National Trust wants to spend £250,000, they can do, but it’s wasting people’s money.”

North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said "the urgency of getting the bridge rebuilt can’t be overstated".

"As I campaigned for, it is simply dangerous for people to be cut off by rising tides and that is why we must get the bridge back as soon as possible," Mr Baker said.

The Trust has not yet applied for planning permission for the new bridge and has said it cannot give a timescale as to when it will be in place or what the design will look like.

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Fakenham & Wells Times: The Stiffkey 'fairy bridge'The Stiffkey 'fairy bridge' (Image: Supplied)

A spokesman said: “We remain committed to rebuilding the bridge at Stiffkey.

“In the last four weeks, we’ve had a number of meetings and site visits, talked to several organisations that will need to grant us the relevant permissions and to date have now committed £20,000 in fees and surveys that will help move us closer to submitting a formal planning application."

Fakenham & Wells Times: TThe Stiffkey 'fairy bridge' being removed by the National TrustTThe Stiffkey 'fairy bridge' being removed by the National Trust (Image: Supplied)

The Trust said such projects in the site of special scientific interest (SSSI) required consent from Natural England, which could take up to four months. 

The spokesman added: "We did recently remove an unauthorised bridge at Stiffkey following conversations with the Crown Estate and Natural England, neither of whom had given permission for the use of their land and who deemed it dangerous and unlicensed.

"Any further structures of this nature that are unlicensed and unconsented will also need to be removed. 

Fakenham & Wells Times: The location of the Stiffkey 'fairy bridge' after it was removed by the National TrustThe location of the Stiffkey 'fairy bridge' after it was removed by the National Trust (Image: Supplied)

"By mid-September we will be able to provide a further update, as we’ll have more information that will help dictate the timescales we’re then working towards, subject to funding and consent.

"We’re moving forward as quickly as we can to build a bridge that's legally compliant, robust, safe and suitable for this inter-tidal coastal location."