Action demanded over Halifax’s notorious North Bridge as death toll mounts

A coroner has demanded Calderdale Council explain what it is doing to prevent people from taking their lives by plunging off North Bridge following a young woman’s death.

Ian Pears said today (Wed) he would be writing a Regulation 28 letter to the authority after hearing how 24-year-old Chloe English had climbed over fencing on 14 May and then jumped from the Victorian bridge off Halifax town centre.

He spoke out after Chloe’s father Richard said he was horrified at the mounting death toll at the bridge with Mr Pears saying he had investigated the matter and agreed something should be done.

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The ornate iron and stone bridge crosses the valley of the River Hebble, and connects the town to roads to Bradford and Leeds. It opened in 1871.

It is not the first time coroners have attempted to improve public safety at this particular bridge.

Following the harrowing inquest into 11-year-old Ursula Keogh’s death in January 2018, senior coroner Martin Fleming, urged Calderdale Council to act faster to prevent any more deaths from the historic bridge.

A council official summoned to the inquest, told Mr Fleming temporary fencing was too difficult due to planning issues but said they would install a permanent structure by May 2019.

Calderdale said it would install new fencing at the location as part of its suicide prevention plan and new CCTV cameras were installed, which have already been used to alert the council and partners to vulnerable people on the bridge.

Additional works also took place to install anti-climb mesh and new sloping metal covers on existing features, to reduce accessibility to the bridge’s parapets.

At the time Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Clr Barry Collins, said: “The council has an important role in preventing suicides and it’s something we take very seriously.”

Floral tributes to Amy Louise Fitzgerald left to her at North Bridge, Halifax
Floral tributes to Amy Louise Fitzgerald left to her at North Bridge, Halifax
(Image: Reach PLC)

Two other people took their own lives from the bridge during 2017 and there have been several others including 24-year-old Amy Fitzgerald whose death during the festive period of 2018 triggered an outpouring of grief.

And the council has only to look to Rainbow Bridge which spans the M62 at Scammonden in neighbouring Kirklees to see what can be done if the necessary determination is there.

So many people had taken their lives there that another coroner, this time, Peter Merchant, demanded action and after years of saying it was impossible Highways England finally carried out the necessary £1m work and deaths from this bridge are thankfully now a distant memory.

An inwardly curved 2.4m (8ft) high anti-climb fence was installed along with new vehicle barriers in October last year.

Calderdale has been contacted for comment.

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YorkshireLive – Halifax