City council in court over bridge

A bridge has crossed the River Faughan at this point since at least 1830
Image caption A bridge has crossed the Faughan at this point since at least 1830

Derry City Council has gone to court to try to establish the right-of-way over a bridge across the River Faughan.

The council said local people have used the crossing at Green Road for 200 years, but its owners have said anyone using it is trespassing.

An iron bridge has crossed the river near Green Road at Ardmore since the 1920s, but in 2009 a couple went to court to establish ownership of it.

The court ruled it was on private land and they were entitled to demolish it.

Local residents have protested against decision, and at Londonderry Recorder's Court on Wednesday, Derry City Council said that Green Road and the bridge across the Faughan is a public right of way, and its owners are therefore not allowed to block access or to demolish the bridge.

Brett Lockhart, QC, acting for the council told the court that the bridge is the only crossing on the river for five miles, and that the first Ordinance Survey map of the area, dating to the 1830s, shows a wooden bridge where the iron one now stands.

According to the legislation, the legal presumption is that a public right of way is inferred after 20 years of usage, and the council's case is that even before 1920 there was a crossing at that point for "a considerable period of time", and this therefore demonstrates entitlement to a right of way.

Leased

However, when the iron bridge was constructed in 1920 it was leased to the owner of the nearby Bleachgreen works for 85 years.

That lease expired in 2005 and the ownership of the bridge reverted to a Mr and Mrs Condit.

Many people in the area use the bridge to access Ardmore Cricket Club, and its secretary, 81-year-old Robert Brolly, told the court he has been using the bridge since he was a boy.

His son, Gerard Brolly also gave evidence. He said in the 1970s he and others used the road daily to walk from his home on the Glenshane Road to Glendermott Primary school in Ardmore, and he still used it to get to the cricket club.

He said permission was never needed to use the road, because it was "simply a matter of daily life".

Sam Condit said when he bought the land he was expressly told it was a private road.

He said he had no problem with pedestrian access for members of the River Faughan Anglers, but said he wanted to "bring the land I purchased into the possession of my wife and myself".

The case was adjourned until 22 June, and District Judge Rodgers said he would visit the disputed bridge.

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