Ironbridge Gorge gets £12m government grant

Funding of £12m has been promised by the government to help preserve the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site is under threat from landslides and slippage which could seriously damage the historic iron bridge and gorge.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "It is vital that we do not let places like Ironbridge Gorge deteriorate or slide out of sight."

The world's first iron bridge was built there in 1779 by Abraham Darby III.

Mr Pickles described the area as a monument to the industrial revolution and "a testament to British ingenuity and ambition".

'Beyond our means'

Telford and Wrekin Council has welcomed the government grant but has said that "around £80m" will be needed to fully protect the gorge.

The council said the money will help the Council undertake work between the Jackfield Tile Museum and the Boat Inn.

The work, which will involve drilling and grouting old mine workings and strengthening slopes and the river banks, will take four years, the council said.

A spokesman said land instability in the gorge "is nothing new" with reports of ground movement being recorded over the past 235 years.

Councillor Richard Overton said: "The bill we face to do this is beyond our means, so we are pleased that Government has found this money to go towards tackling this most pressing need."

The council said it has spent more than £16m on tackling land instability in the gorge since 2001.

Demolition plan

Cracking was first reported on the iron bridge as early as 1784, and it has needed constant repair and maintenance.

The bridge suffers structurally due to land movement in the valley it was built in.

There were plans in the middle of the last century to demolish the original bridge and build a new one.

In 1967 the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust was set up to preserve the remains of the Industrial Revolution in the six square miles of the Ironbridge Gorge.

Between 1972 and 1975 £147,000 was spent on repairing the bridge, re-enforcing it and resurfacing it.

More than 550,000 visitors now come to the 10 Ironbridge Gorge museums every year from all over the world.

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