A VITAL link across the River Stour, which is used by hundreds of walkers and cyclists every day, is set to close amid safety fears.

The main weir bridge near Throop Mill has provided the only pedestrian access across the river from Muscliff and Throop for over half a century.

But, as the rotting timbers continue to deteriorate, Dorset County Council has decided to erect a temporary structure while the weir bridge is demolished and replaced.

But ward Councillor Ron Whittaker, who has campaigned for a new footbridge across the Stour for several years, fears that the much-needed link could be lost.

Earlier this year the council confirmed that the new bridge may not be constructed until 2014.

He said: “This bridge is vital in retaining easy pedestrian routes along the Stour Valley. Hundreds of people use it, particularly at weekends.”

At a Dorset Highways Management meeting earlier this month the future of the wooden bridge was discussed and plans to install a temporary 12-month structure revealed.

The temporary bridge will be dismantled once the new bridge is built.

Details of the bridge plans were emailed to Cllr Whittaker by the council’s bridge management chief engineer John Burridge.

Cllr Whittaker told the Daily Echo: “The rate of deterioration is even worse than I had feared.

“Sadly we lost Lottery funding of £300,000 from Sustrans for a new bridge; now I am concerned that the present bridge will close before the temporary replacement is in place.

“I have been warning the council about the state of the weir bridge for years; I want them to ensure, now that the good weather has arrived, that work on a temporary structure starts as soon as possible.”