Building bridges (not simply structural ones!)

Often perceived as the elephant in the room, a bridge too far even bridging the gap and the subject of many an Island based joke. But what’s the truth ?

It’s encouraging to witness so many comments and views expressed, the opposite would suggest people don’t care and from the amount of local support we have received we know that simply isn’t true. Numerous people have asked me to comment so a few facts, history and comments from me may help the discussion.

First the bridge: the initial image posted by Kate is a well publicised conceptual image which came from the Tenby Island Project website and has since been removed. They alone can answer specific questions relating to that image.

ST CATHERINE's ISLAND

 

Permission for the first and only temporary suspension footbridge to run from Castle Hill to the Island was granted on 29th August 1867. This footbridge was used to service the hundreds of workers who needed unhindered access to the Island during the construction of the fort. We have no clear date as to when the bridge was taken down although we do know that a smack called the “Pearl” damaged the suspension bridge at 9.00 pm on the 19th August 1868 during a squall when it broke its mooring ropes and was wrecked on the rocks at the foot of Castle Hill.

 

It’s my understanding that no planning application has ever been submitted for a permanent bridge.

For my part, I am neither the batsman or bowler in the decision making process, but I have no doubt that some method of transporting visitors to and from the rock will remain high on the agenda.  Do I have a preference ? No – I live in hope that a compromise wins the day, the best of all potential solutions moulded into one acceptable way forward. Often when questioned by visitors on the Island I remind them of the story of the Channel Tunnel which first made an appearance on paper in the early 1800’s – how long did that take to become a reality (May 1994) !

Any ambitious development scheme would need electricity, gas and water supplies. A Diesel generator was used to supply electricity on the island for a period in the 1960’s. The fort was originally designed and constructed with water piped across the beach. The fort was also equipped to harvest fresh water from the roof space, stored in one of the many tanks under the present flooring. After 150 years the water supply pipes have eroded to the point of being unusable and the internal method for harvesting water has been regulated out by modern day legislation leaving the Island and fort with no electricity, no water nor any usable sewerage system.

The reality of the Island & forts position today some 150 years post construction is that it needs restoration, preservation and protection. The present team, myself, the owners and authorities along with the majority of supporters have no wish to return to the dark days of barbed wire, yellow, red and white signs saying KEEP OFF, NO TRESPASSING, NO UNAUTHORISED ACCESS, break-ins and a fort full of decay and rubbish. We will continue to seek solutions, consult and explore all possible solutions.

How could any future schemes to do that be financed and make money? Gone are the days when a wealthy family such as the Windsor-Richards with money to spare could afford to spend large amounts of money on the fort and have a lavish and ornate lifestyle as they did between 1914 to 1939.

Nor is the history of past commercial ventures encouraging. There is and never has been a shortage of ideas of what the Island can or could be used for but equally the evidence of how successful such ideas have been now stands derelict at the foot of Castle Beach. The zoos braved the Island environment and tried numerous methods of maintaining an income alas, all in vain. A recent failed development project, some of the strictest planning protocols in the country and accompanying legislation make the task of running the island now incredibly complex, difficult and frustrating.

Tourism remains the only viable option for the rock. The long standing objective is to facilitate longer opening hours at minimal cost. The present commercial viability of the rock is not rocket science, trading three hours either side of low tide when possible due to tide, weather and season is not sustainable unless the entry cost per person is increased to a absurd level..

Since the 1st of September 2016 a small dedicated team drawn from all sections of Tenby’s community, local groups and volunteer organisations along with significant support and help from the local trust who have owned the Island & Fort since 1962 have been working towards a long term solution that will ultimately benefit future generations, building on the significant work already completed by the Tenby Island Project over the last three years, albeit at a reduced pace in balance with the available resources. The only reason we as a small team can survive where others have not is that we are not subject to the same costs and expenses as previous independent occupants.

BRIDGE TO ST CATHERINE's

The Island & fort re-opened to the public on the 12th April this year (2017) and progress has been made. We have a contingent of loyal supporters. We have had 12,500 plus visitors over the last 5 months, work has been completed to extend and prolong the life of the footbridge leading up to the WW2 Gun placement; fencing has been replaced and made good; new and experienced staff have been re-trained with a formal training and qualification system.

And a new website has beenestablished: http://saintcatherinesisland.co.uk. Come join us …………

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