Designer Tom rolls out his idea for a 'rolling' bridge to cross the Lea River's Cody Dock
PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:54 07 June 2019
A campaign has been started to raise the cash for what might be the world's first hand-cracked rolling footbridge planned for a disused dock on the River Lea.
The idea is the brainchild of Tom Randall-Page who got his inspiration watching the manual locks on the river and on the Regent's Canal.
Now it's to be constructed at the once-abandoned Cody Dock at Canning Town if the £200,000 costs can be raised.
The 34-year-old architectural designer from Stoke Newington has worked out a way to raise and lower the bridge using a rounded square frame rolling along rails either side of the lock entrance which doesn't need to be powered like a traditional cantilever bridge.
"I wanted to create something people would want to come and see," Tom said. "I had heard that Cody Dock was planning to put in an 'off-the-shelf' bridge from Holland—so I offered something unique and put in a counter-proposal.
"I got the inspiration from the canal infrastructure of hand-operated canal locks and how lean and efficient it all is—you get a 40-tonne barge through just by winding a handle that lifts the vessel in the lock without much effort."
His design uses counterweight technology, what Randall-Page calls "high-low tech" that anyone can operate.
The walkway is set at the bottom of a frame straddling either side of the lock entrance, which is then rolled over by pulley along the rails, like a turning gear wheel, until the walkway is upside down at the top of the frame with plenty of room to let barges through.
"It's a unique concept for a hand-operated bridge," Tom claims. "It's the first of its kind anywhere in the world."
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The Gasworks Dock Partnership that is reopening Cody Dock as a community hub already had planning permission from Newham Council for a cantilever bridge back in 2014, but Tom's idea literally rolled the scheme over—like his bridge design—and a new planning application was made which has now been approved.
All that remains is finding the cash. An online Cody Dock crowdfunding page has opened with at least £13,000 pledged so far, but needs to reach £50,000 to get City Hall match-funding to kickstart the 'rolling bridge' project that would raise the rest of the £200,000.
Simon Myers, the man who 'rediscovered' Cody Dock in 2012 after it had been abandoned 40 years earlier when Canning Town gasworks was about to close, quickly dropped the original cantilever scheme when he saw Tom's idea which he said was "totally worth it".
He explained: "This will literally be a turning point in our dream to reactivate Cody Dock and help breath life back into the Lea River for the first time in a generation. Tom's design puts Cody Dock and the Lower Lea River well on the London map."
Everyone donating to the project gets their name cast onto bridge as a lasting legacy.
Meanwhile, there's money to raise. A summer festival is being staged on Saturday week, June 15, noon to 5pm, with live entertainment and an exhibition of the rolling bridge venture.
An outdoor stage is being set up with a blues band and performances by Canning Town's Star Primary school choir during the day, while the Hogeye Men sea shanty group puts on a concert aboard the newly-restored River Princess pleasure cruiser. Craft workshops and 'bush craft' for kids are also being set up.
The Mayor of London is sending in his City Hall squad on June 17 to look round Cody Dock and assess the rolling bridge scheme which the charity believes will attract thousands of visitors every year.
The Gasworks Dock Partnership running Cody Dock is a social enterprise with facilities for schools, universities, charities and community groups to promote the Lower Lea Valley's ecology and more use of the river.
The dock is towards the end of the 26-mile Leaway footpath from Ware in Hertfordshire down to the Thames at Blackwall which links the Olympic Park to the Royal Docks for walkers without crossing a road.
A campaign was started in April by artist Tim Allen, from Backwall's City Island development, to reopen the last half-mile of towpath blocked to the public from Cody Dock to Canning Town Bridge.