Secklow Gate bridge is falling down

Bernard Nicholls at Secklow Gate Bridge
Bernard Nicholls at Secklow Gate Bridge

A former engineer who was integral in the construction of Secklow Gate Bridge has condemned it as a safety hazard for market traders.

But Bernard Nicholls also railed against rejected plans to build a Primark store on the site, claiming the bridge is a vital transport route for emergency vehicles.

Mr Nicholls told the Citizen Secklow Gate Bridge ‘was an accident waiting to happen’ due to the way the market has been constructed, with a number of permanent fixtures drilled through the underside of the bridge.

He said: “When we designed this originally the rules said that the market could be there but that nothing could be permanent.

“There are two inches of concrete there before you get through to the steel reinforcement. Drilling into that has made it potentially weaker.

“I’ve tried to tell the traders and the council it’s dangerous but no-one has listened. I don’t want this bridge coming down, I want it to stay up.”

Mr Nicholls was the senior clerk of works for the Development Corporation when the bridge was constructed in 1971.

At the same time his wife, Margaret, was working as a material engineer for the same company.

He worked for the corporation until it was wound up in 1992 after which he continued in a similar role for the Commission for New Towns and then subsequently English Partnerships.

Mr Nicholls, now retired, showed us around the current site near Secklow Gate Bridge and pointed out examples where stalls were pressed up against the underside of the bridge with fixtures, including lights and signs drilled through to hold them in place.

And he claimed the insufficient space between the roof of the market stalls and the bridge was creating pressure which was putting the structures at huge potential risk.

“The bridge is designed to move,” he added.

“There should be space between the stalls and the bridge. Temporary fixes that people have made themselves are dangerous.”

But he added that the bridge must remain as it provides a vital route for emergency service vehicles.

A Milton Keynes Council spokesman said: “Secklow Gate Bridge was thoroughly inspected before it was re-opened in June 2011, following its closure after a major fire in the market below.

“The bridge has since been inspected again and we are confident that it is in good condition.”