Marlovians who are keen to see the town’s historic weight-restricted bridge protected from heavy vehicles have been dealt another blow in a move branded “disappointing” by council leader Martin Tett.

Buckinghamshire Council installed a camera on Marlow Bridge as part of a trial to monitor how many people in heavy cars, vans and lorries were trying to get across it - even though signage very clearly states only vehicles that weigh less than three tonnes can do so - after a string of incidents over the past five years.

The camera – one of three installed temporarily to monitor rule-breaking to gather evidence ahead of an application to the Department for Transport for more cameras - was part of a trial because Bucks Council is hoping to become one of the first authorities outside of London to take on enforcement powers for traffic offences from the police.

Guidance in place at the beginning of the trial showed that structural weight limits could potentially be available for enforcement by local authorities, so a camera trial was carried out at Marlow Bridge on that basis.

The trial camera on the bridge found that on average, 97 vehicles every day were breaking the weight restriction rules.

But the council can now not progress with the Marlow Bridge camera, because it has now been made clear that the enforcement of structural weight limits by local authorities in this way is not allowed.

The rules state the council can only enforce environmental weight limits, which can only be used on routes which are unsuitable for HGVs and where there is a better and equally convenient alternative.

The rules cannot be used to enforce structural weight limits, where the structure is weak and cannot bear vehicles over a certain weight – which would be the case for Marlow Bridge.

It means a camera for Marlow Bridge has now been dropped from their plans as they progress with applying to the Department for Transport for permission to go ahead with other schemes.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning as the plans were discussed, leader Cllr Martin Tett said he was “disappointed” that they cannot use the measures to protect the bridge.

He said: “I have had correspondence from people about the use of Marlow Bridge by vehicles that are quite frankly inappropriate.

“We had that incident a few years ago with the HGV trying to get across it which led to extensive damage of the bridge and we’ve had vehicles damaged by trying to get through bollards.

“It’s an area where we could have really done with those powers but we don’t have them.”

A total of 16 moveable cameras, costing £276,000, will be used to monitor areas where drivers regularly flout the rules of the road, including Castle Street and Corporation Street in High Wycombe, if the Department for Transport gives the green light.

The news that Marlow Bridge will not be involved in this now will not be welcome news to frustrated Marlovians, who have long called for action to protect the bridge.

In 2016, it was closed and saw “overstressing on key structural parts” when an HGV driver from a European haulage company vastly exceeded the three-tonne weight limit in his 37-tonne lorry, blew a tyre and got stuck.

Two months later another disaster was barely averted when an overweight van attempted to cross it five minutes after it was officially reopened following extensive inspections.

Then, in 2017, one lorry managed to get through its width restrictions before being flagged down; while on a separate occasion a P&O Ferrymasters wagon blew its tyres while attempting to cross the weight-restricted bridge.

It hasn't been confirmed if the council is planning to use any other methods of monitoring the bridge at this stage.