THERE are no plans to close Keyhole Bridge to motor vehicles despite an agreement being made with Cycling UK. 

BCP Council has said the controversial bridge in Whitecliff Road, Poole will remain open after Cycling UK said it would take the authority to court over its decision last year to keep it open. 

Cycling UK, a charity, has claimed BCP Council was “unlawful” to keep open the bridge to cars, adding the authority has “conceded” it was unlawful after “winning the court case”. 

However, BCP Council has said that is not true: an out-of-court settlement has been made between the pair, the council don't agree it was unlawful, and the case never made it to court. 

Bournemouth Echo: Wooden plant pots have been installed at Keyhole Bridge near Poole Park after damage was caused to the existing plastic bollards by a vehicle

A consent order seen by the Echo shows BCP Council must pay £35,000 to Cycling UK and “the defendant [BCP Council] does not intend to defend this ground” - the claims made against it.

Cllr Andy Hadley, portfolio holder for climate response, environment and energy, said: “Whilst we as an administration disagree with the position of the previous portfolio holder, at no time have we conceded that this decision was unlawful. 

“BCP Council and Cycling UK jointly settled this case by way of a consent order without the case ever reaching court, and we agreed to pay some legal expenses to Cycling UK. 

“Our intention in coming to this agreement was to avoid further conflict and reduce costs to the council and our residents. We believe this is far less expensive than if we had chosen to pursue a defence of the legal challenge. 

“We remain committed to promoting active and sustainable travel.” 

Bournemouth Echo:

Despite this, Cycling UK has described the settlement a “victory for the people of Poole” - despite no changes to who can travel through the bridge. 

Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Cycling UK, said: “The reopening of Keyhole Bridge was a legacy decision the current administration inherited, so Cycling UK is pleased it’s adopted a more pragmatic approach to resolve the case.

She added: “It’s crucial all councils realise they need to evaluate how active travel schemes have worked and consider the relevant guidance, and not rush to remove schemes because a minority of people object.”  

Of the 791 respondents in the extended consultation, 65 per cent agreed Keyhole Bridge should be closed permanently with 35 per cent disagreeing.

Bournemouth Echo:

Ms Mitchell continued: “While the immediate benefits of this case will be felt locally, we know other councils will take note of this outcome and think twice before restricting people’s opportunities to cycle.”  

Keyhole Bridge was closed to motor vehicles under an experimental traffic restriction order in 2020 to provide safer walking and cycling facilities during the pandemic.  

However, BCP Council reopened in March 2021 after cabinet members from the previous administration unanimously agreed the narrow road should remain open to cars. 

The order to keep the bridge open has attracted much debate from both sides, with some wanting to keep the bridge open and some wanting it closed to cars and vehicles.