The grand opening of a new road link in Pooley Bridge has been delayed - sparking a fresh plea that the town remains open for visitors.

The new stainless steel bridge was initially scheduled to be completed by Easter, but the finish date has now been pushed back until June.

Details about the delay emerged as a the £5 million project marked its latest milestone when the first two of four stainless steel sections arrived in the village.

In the coming weeks, the replacement bridge - which will be the first stainless steel road bridge of its kind in the country - will begin to take shape.

The structure is being fabricated in four separate quarter sections, at a factory in Lancashire.

They will be assembled on site by the banks of the river Eamont. 

The process is estimated to take about 13,000 hours to fabricate.

The final completed structure will be craned into position over the river later this year.

While onlookers marvelled at the arrival of the new permanent additions, concerns have been raised over the delay.

Miles MacInnes, chairman of Barton and Pooley Bridge parish council, told in-Cumbria sister title, The Cumberland News: “It’s a very exciting milestone on the journey to our new bridge, and great to see the steelwork coming on site.

“There is considerable concern that the opening date has been put back to June, when the original target was Easter, but we are working hard with Cumbria County Council and Eric Wright hopefully to mitigate the delay; for example seven-day working and extended working days when the daylight improves.

“Not only is the village ‘open for business’ but we’re encouraging people to come and see the work now that there is more activity on site.
“There are several good viewing points and we plan to install additional information points.”

A spokesman from the county council has confirmed works have fallen behind schedule - but didn’t give a reason behind the delay.

He said: “Pooley Bridge is a major engineering project and will be the first stainless steel road bridge in the UK. 
“Construction works are progressing very well on what is a significant scheme. 

“Our priority is to deliver the very best bridge for the local community and we are working closely with our principal contractor, Eric Wright Civil Engineering, to ensure the bridge is completed as soon as possible.”

Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for Highways and Transport, added: “I’m delighted the first sections of steelwork for the replacement bridge at Pooley Bridge have safely arrived on site. 

“This is a significant milestone for the project and work can now start on assembling the new structure on the ground. 

“Local people and visitors will now be able to see the bridge start taking shape over the coming weeks. 

“Pooley Bridge is very much open for business throughout construction and I would like to thank the local community for their patience and understanding.”

Eric Wright Civil Engineering Ltd is the principal contractor for the project. 

Work started on site in September last year to remove the temporary road bridge and install a temporary footbridge.

During the construction phase of the project, there is no vehicle access over the River Eamont at Pooley Bridge while the new bridge is being built.

Signed diversion routes for traffic remain in operation.

Originally named ‘Pooley’ or ‘Pool How’ - which means ‘the hill beside the pool,’ the ‘bridge’ part of the name was added in the year 1800. 

The old bridge which gave its name to the village was built in 1764. 

It spanned the River Eamont, which in 1764 formed part of the boundary between the counties of Cumberland and Westmorland - whose council’s organised and funded the bridge’s construction.

In December 2015, the bridge was destroyed after heavy rain brought on by Storm Desmond swept the county.