After 45 days of frustration, Tadcaster has finally been reconnected as the temporary footbridge officially opened today.
Hundreds of residents turned out to watch as Nigel Adams, MP for Selby and Ainsty and Coun David Jeffels, chair of the county council officially opened the bridge.
Tadcaster’s 18th century road bridge collapsed into the River Wharfe during the devastating flooding caused by Storm Frank on December 29.
The bridge will be lovingly referred to as ‘Sonny’s Bridge’ following the death of incredibly popular local resident and Tadcaster Albion fan Sonny Lang on Tuesday, aged 23.
Her mother, Anna Clarke, said: “I can’t believe it, we are all over the moon and I know Sonny would have been cackling away if she was here.
“The sun has not stopped shining since Tuesday. She was just a walking smile and it’s comforting in this dark week to know she was so well loved.
“There’s a big void now she’s gone but the amount of well wishes we’ve had have really helped us out and given us strength.”
Plans to reconnect the town with a temporary footbridge were hindered when the owner of Samuel Smith’s Old Brewery refused permission for it to be built on his land.
Thankfully, Tadcaster Albion stepped in and suggested the footbridge run from Selby District Council car park on the east to Tadcaster Town Council land on the west.
It’s hoped the historic bridge will be reopened by the beginning of 2017 after the Government pledged £3.3m to rebuild it.
North Yorkshire County Council’s contractor has worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day in order to complete the work as quickly as possible.
Mr Adams said: “It’s a fantastic day for Tadcaster, we’ve had some dark weeks following the floods so to have hundreds of people turn out today is incredible.
“Naming it ‘Sonny’s Bridge is a great idea. It’s a tragedy for her to pass away at such a young age but it’s fitting that the bridge carries her name.”
Tadcaster Albion chairman, Matt Gore, confirmed the club would be erecting a memorial garden near the bridge’s entrance as well as a commemorative plaque in her memory.
He said: “We urge the community of Tadcaster to refer to this as Sonny’s bridge in recognition and honour of her brilliant life.
“Naming the bridge after Sonny means everything to us and everything to her mum Anna and dad Marc. Every time somebody crosses the bridge they will be reminded of her.
“Sonny would have loved this. Tadcaster is a special place and the community is second to none, there’s a special feeling in this town.”
Mr Adams and Coun Jeffels were accompanied by Barbara and Chrissie Wilson, the mother and daughter who were famously separated when the bridge collapsed on December 29.
Chrissie, whose home had flooded on Boxing Day, was walking from the east side of Tadcaster to her mother’s house on the west when the bridge collapsed.
Chrissie said: “We’re so proud to be doing this. Mum was born and grew up in Tadcaster and her family goes back 300 years in the town.
“We’re just so impressed with the way the town has pulled together through all this and delighted to have a bridge that connects the centre of the town again.”
The metal footbridge has been built in sections and cantilevered out over the river. Work is still continuing to build ramps and footings.