Children’s lives are potentially at risk because of an unfenced bridge at Uckfield Roller Mill, town councillors have been told.
Youngsters could fall into the river and be swept through the mill when the river is in spate – as it was at the weekend when Storm Dennis raged.
A child would “not stand a chance”, last night’s (February 17) meeting of the town council’s environment and leisure committee was told.
Chairman, Cllr Jeremy Beesley, raised the issue and he was supported by former town deputy mayor, Cllr Duncan Bennett.
The bridge is privately owned and is on private land.
Cllr Bennett said the river at this point, off Mill Lane, became something of a tourist attraction on Sunday as the waters rose.
Cllr Beesley said safety was a “real issue” because the bridge sides were made of metal supports with “gaping holes” in between.
“It would only take a little one to trip and fall into the river and down and out the other side [of the mill] before you know it,” he said.
There was also no life-saving equipment at that spot.
Cllr Ben Cox, aged 29, said two people had fallen into the river at that point during his lifetime.
“It has come up before,” he added.
Cllr Bennett said he had tried in the past to get the bridge made safer but to no avail.
He pointed out the private nature of bridge but said it was in close proximity to a walking route used by families and children going to and from school.
He believed the landowner had a responsibility, probably a duty of care, for people on the land, whether they were invited or not invited.
It would not take an awful of lot of materials or work to make the bridge safe, he said.
“I was down there with guys from the Environment Agency [on Sunday] when a 3ft diameter tree trunk came rolling down the river.
“We watched it as it descended into the concrete culvert.
“They exclaimed ‘oh my god, I hope it doesn’t get stuck’ because that would cause major problems with the water backing up.
“No sooner had we walked round to the downstream side of the mill, it was already through the pipe and under the bridge heading off down to the sea.
Tree trunk sweeps through
“If that force of water can do that to a 3ft diameter tree that was probably 12ft long, a small child would not stand chance.
“I would hate that to be on the conscience of anybody.
“There is probably a legal responsibility but there is certainly a moral responsibility to make it as safe as possible,” Cllr Bennett said.
He added the council should write to the owners of the Roller Mill to ask for action or reasons why action would not be taken.
Storm Dennis passes with little damage
Storm Dennis passed in Uckfield without any reported flooding of properties or roads, although fields in the flood plain – such as Hempstead Meadows – were covered.
The river did not reach the height it had done before Christmas during the heavy rain of December 20.
A few trees were blown down in the area. Roads were disrupted for a time as was the Uckfield railway line.