THE first people have walked across Poole’s iconic new £37million bridge.

Thousands flocked to the Twin Sails Bridge Community Weekend to watch history in the making and cross the imposing structure.

After more than 30 years of campaigning to get a second harbour crossing, it’s hoped it will open up brownfield land and lead to around 2,000 homes and 5,000 jobs in the next 10 – 15 years.

Crowds watched the leaves lift and lower once, before Mayor Graham Wilson led the first group across on Saturday morning.

Cllr Wilson, who cut the ribbon using the scissors from the opening of the lifting bridge in 1927, said: “This is an historic day we are witnessing.

“This iconic bridge is for the future of Poole and our young people.

“It is an absolute honour to be here with you today to cut this ribbon. As a local person it is really great.”

He then led the Civic Party across, joined by his ‘People’s Champions’ including paralympian swimmer Ben Clarke, members of Poole UKYP and volunteers from community groups.

On reaching the Hamworthy side, Cllr Wilson said: “This certainly is a bridge to the future.

“I’m hoping Hamworthy will see a large improvement in its facilities.”

Members of the public were then allowed to explore the bridge and buy a commemorative certificate, produced by Poole’s three Rotary Clubs in aid of local charities.

Council leader Cllr Elaine Atkinson said: “I think it highlights Poole on the global stage.

“Poole has always been an ambitious town.

“I believe this iconic structure will bring more jobs to Poole.

“Four regeneration sites will be opened up and I believe there will be some excellent developments, housing and employment opportunities.

“It will also make an absolutely fantastic place to enjoy while walking around the harbour, making Poole very distinct.”

‘Bridge champion’ Cllr Brian Clements, who was council leader 12 years ago when a previous high level bridge plan was scrapped, said he was “elated” and “thrilled” to cross the bridge at last.

“The bridge has always been seen as more than a catalyst, but an initial part of regenerating this part of Poole,” Cllr Clements said.

“The real challenge now is to make sure that is done in an appropriate way. If that can reflect the same quality as the bridge, then wow we have done it.

“Development should not be done at any price – we must push for quality to secure Poole’s long term future.”

Nearly 85 years ago, Sue Tarrant’s grandfather Mayor Herbert Carter opened the Poole Bridge.

Sue said: “My aunt accompanied him with her Jack Russell, called ‘Pompey’ “She used to tell me the story and it’s something that’s always intrigued me.”

The 57-year-old, who now lives in Wareham, added: “I think the bridge is very impressive.

“It’s certainly different from the other one. I’m hoping it will help Poole and be good for the town.”

Residents formed a human chain by holding hands across the bridge yesterday, before it closed again.

Workers from contractor Hochtief UK Construction Limited are putting the finishing touches to the bridge before drivers are allowed to use it.

Jim Bright, Borough of Poole’s Strategic Director, said: “The bridge is looking fantastic and our contractor is working hard on the finishing touches that will make it such a stunning addition to Poole’s skyline.

“As soon as this work is completed and the bridge is formally handed over to the council, we intend to fully open it to road traffic at the earliest opportunity.”