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Row over plan to replace Eling toll bridge staff with automated barrier

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The toll bridge at Eling is manned seven days a week
The toll bridge at Eling is manned seven days a week

A ROW over a suggestion that the staff who man the historic toll bridge at Eling could be replaced with an automated barrier has resulted in a petition with more than 800 signatures.

The dispute between Conservative and Liberal Democrat members of Totton and Eling Town Council broke out after the issue was raised at a recent meeting.

Lib Dem Cllr David Harrison claimed afterwards that the Conservative-run council was considering a proposal to replace them with a barrier.

He said: “One of the really charming features of visiting Eling is the presence of the toll keepers. It is a long tradition that has survived for centuries and for good reason. Anybody who knows the area well appreciates that the toll keepers play a valuable role.

“The plans to put in an automatic barrier are very early stage and nothing has yet been agreed by the full council.

“It was introduced by the Conservatives at a sub-committee that was considering priorities for projects. It should have been dropped right away.”

The bridge at Eling Hill, which is owned by the town council, is thought to date back to before 1700. Motorists are charged £1 per day for a return journey and motorcyclists 70p.

The income helps to maintain the bridge and the adjacent historic mill.

Cllr Harrison said he pushed to “kill the idea” and gave his backing to a petition set up by his Lib Dem colleague Cllr Caroline Rackham. Within a few days of it being set up, hundreds had signed it. This week it stood at over 800.

The council’s Tory chair, Cllr Neville Penman, denied there were any firm plan and said it was simply looking at ways to ensure everyone who drove over the bridge paid the toll.

He said: “There has been no discussions or anything decided – it was just something that is being looked at and considered.

“This has been brought forward because a resident complained and asked why a car in front was waved through [the toll]. Should it be proposed, it would need to go through a committee and be brought to the full council.”

He added: “We as councillors should consider getting the best for our taxpayers and a survey needs to be taken on how many vehicles cross the bridge over a period, times of days etc.

“We might not have to change the current system but if proven necessary there are systems on the market that could help the toll keepers and I am sure they would be the first ones to agree with this.”

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