BRITAIN'S longest single span footbridge could become Teesdale's equivalent to the Angel of the North, it was claimed this week.

A decision is due by the turn of the year on whether planning permission is sought for the £1.3m, 265 metre bridge, which would cross the Tees at Barnard Castle and incorporate a viewing platform.

The scheme has split opinion, with town councillors this week told the most recent consultation exercise showed 60 per cent in favour.

Councillor Newton Wood likened the bridge to Gateshead's iconic Angel of the North.

He said: “There was resistance, but now it is accepted. Could this be the same for the bridge?” Coun Wood said concerns – especially about parking and traffic management - could be overcome.

“I am not unhappy with what we have proposed,” he added.

Coun Roger Peat said the bridge provided a good opportunity for the town.

“At the moment, you have got people coming to the Bowes Museum and going home.

"We have got this opportunity of people coming to the museum but then staying in the town and using its amenities. I think it's going to be good for the town.”

However, Coun Thom Robinson said the bridge should form part of a bigger picture for Barnard Castle.

“This town needs to grow for the long term and not just with a new bridge,” he said.

Councillors received an update on the scheme from project manager Jeanette Armin who said she was working with Durham County Council's traffic engineers to try to come up with a solution on how the town would cope with the extra 29,000 visitors a year the bridge would attract.

This included possibly using facilities in nearby Startforth and converting a layby for use by disabled visitors.

Ms Armin also suggested the Teesdale School car park could be used at weekends and during holidays as a base to operate a park and ride scheme to and from the bridge.

She said one-to-one meetings are currently being held with the landowners who would be affected by the project.

“Once we have done that, I will go back to the county council with a management paper and we will have a decision on whether to go for a planning application around the turn of the year,” she added.

If the scheme eventually comes to fruition, the suspension bridge would be the centrepiece of a circular walk from Barnard Castle through ancient woodland.