COUNCIL officials have apologised to Kendal residents for delays in the construction of a replacement Gooseholme footbridge.

And Cumbria County Council cabinet member for highways Keith Little has warned that significant funding was required to fund the new bridge and this issue needed to be addressed.

"It is important to point out that whatever is looked at will require significant investment, anything from £500,000 to almost £2m depending on the agreed final design," said Cllr Little.

"The county council is committed to delivering this project and is working hard to finalise a design and secure the funding needed to deliver it. We cannot deliver any solution without confirming the necessary funds.”

However, council officials were able to announce that work on the project was now able to proceed to the next step.

"The council would also like to apologise to the local community for the delay in beginning this project – this was due to the need for understanding the Environment Agency’s work around the design and layout of new flood defences for Kendal," said a spokesman.

"This work has been completed which enables us to now move forward with the detailed design for this project.

"Once this work has been undertaken then the Council will seek the public’s views through various channels including public drop-ins and other consultation opportunities to inform any final solution."

Gooseholme footbridge, which spans the River Kent and links Gooseholme Park with New Road, has for many years been a popular access route to the town centre for pedestrians and cyclists.

It was damaged during Storm Desmond in December 2015 and following a subsequent survey, it was deemed dangerous and closed in January 2016.

Residents have long campaigned for the bridge to be reopened and it was reported earlier this year that a replacement bridge would be in place by January 2019.

However, an internal council report seen by the Westmorland Gazette notes a new design has still not been agreed upon and funding issues remain outstanding, so that target now appears out of reach.

The report concludes that demolition of the town centre pedestrian bridge and replacement with a single span cable stayed structure accessible to the disabled and cyclists is the preferred way forward.

Peter Thornton, who is councillor for the area, said the absolute priority was to ensure there was no repetition of the flooding of properties in the area after Storm Desmond, and therefore it was important the council made a careful decision on a replacement bridge.

"Our priority is to try to ensure there is no reoccurance of the previous flooding which caused so much trauma for local residents," said the Liberal Democrat councillor.

"It is important to stress the new walls will raise the level of the river and that we need a structure that will take this into account."

Cllr Thornton reiterated that as flooding issues were paramount in deciding on the new design, demolition of the piers would assist in this aim.

"The existing bridge has large piers which add to the flood risk and the Environment Agency have said they would prefer it if we didn't have those piers," he said.

But South Lakeland District Council Conservative Group leader James Airey expressed his dismay at the delays and called for the matter to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

"For this situation to be taking place is just a nonsense," he said.

"Cumbria County Council received £121m of funding from central government following Storm Desmond and there is still £44m which has not been allocated.

"This bridge represents a vital link in the centre of Kendal and we need to work together to find a solution and get this money allocated.

"It's about time they got their act together."