REPAIRS to a bridge badly damaged by two landslips will begin next week, signalling an end to months of misery for local residents.

Ovington, near Barnard Castle, has effectively been split in two after ground under the bridge gave way and forced the closure of the road through the village.

An initial landslip, on November 28 last year, caused a temporary closure, but the bridge reopened as a single lane controlled by traffic lights.

A second landslide, on December 23, has resulted in the road remaining closed to all vehicles ever since.

Durham County Council officials insist the damage was caused following a period of exceptional rainfall, however, residents believe HGVs using the road despite a 7.5 tonne weight restriction are at least partly to blame.

Repairs will begin on Monday, June 24, and are expected to take 12 weeks to complete, during which time the bridge will be closed to pedestrians.

Ian Guest, chairman of Ovington Parish Council, said the the start of work was long overdue.

“It's been six months and it has been such an inconvenience,” he said.

With no road through the village, residents have been faced with long detours, either via Whorlton or Caldwell and Winston.

“Let's hope this gets it sorted and we can get back to normal,” added Mr Guest.

Work will involve the construction of a reinforced concrete wall with a stone facing to match the original bridge.

Repairs to the road, the removal of debris from the embankment and the replacement of the soil which slipped with free-draining stone covered with seeded top soil will also be carried out as part of the works.

Brian Buckley, strategic highways manager at Durham County Council, said: “Extensive repair works will be carried out and we are doing all that we can to minimise disruption to the local community.

“We expect the work to take 12 weeks but every effort will be made to complete it sooner if possible.”

The county council says site investigations to identify the nature and extent of the damage as well as seeking the necessary permissions to go ahead with the work on the bridge, which is a Grade II listed structure, are why it has taken so long to start repairing the bridge.