A PETITION to rename Shoreham’s Old Tollbridge the Bridge of Flowers, following the Shoreham air tragedy, has split opinion.
Benn Slade, cousin of Mark Trussler – one of the air crash victims – and creator of the Worthing Watch community Facebook page, launched a petition to change the bridge’s name on change.org. It has so far accumulated 3,150 signatures.
The name is inspired by the hundreds of floral tributes that have been left on the bridge in memory of the victims of the incident on August 22.
Now, Adur District Councillor Liza McKinney, who played a major role in the repair of the bridge, has had her say on the suggestion.
She said: “The air crash and the terrible loss of life at this year’s Shoreham Airshow was an epic tragedy for families and loved ones and the organisations involved. My heartfelt condolences go out to them a hundredfold.
“And now much talk is about a lasting memorial. Whilst the Old Shoreham Tollbridge has provided a temporary focus for thousands of people to join with the family in mourning their loss it cannot provide a lasting memorial by changing the name.
“A proper permanent memorial for the pilot who died in a previous air show was erected on the Airport. After a period of time for reflection, there will need to be a decision on a final resting place and the erection of a permanent memorial which will record in words for posterity the tragedy and the names of those who died.
“In time I am sure that Adur District Council will want to consult the families. But for now may I suggest that surely the time has come for the families to be allowed some peace and time to grieve in private safe in the knowledge of the enormous public sympathy there is for their so sudden loss.”
The bridge is Grade II Listed and dates back to 1781. From 2000 until February 2008, the entire length of both sides of the bridge were protected by high steel fences because the sides were rotten as were some of the beams and struts underneath.
In an attempt to save it, Mrs McKinney and Vera Tickler led the Old Tollbridge Charitable Trust in 2004, with the support of 40 local organisations. They raised money through car boot sales, concerts, fayres and more, before securing a £192,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery.
On 23rd October 2008, HRH the Duke of York, unveiled a bronze plaque on the Old Shoreham Tollbridge to mark its official re-opening.
Mr Slade admitted that deciding to officially rename the bridge might have been a bit of a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction but was adamant that the bridge was the right location for a memorial and has suggested a compromise in terms of the name change.
He said: “The renaming doesn’t have to be official as in ordnance. A plaque with a hyphenation would suffice. A memorial at that location would be fitting. Roadside at the crash site is inappropriate for noise levels plus a potential rubbernecking risk to road users.
“With respect to the councillor Liza McKinney she hasn’t lost a family member. We and ten other families have.
“That area is perfect, it’s serene, it’s right. Some would argue that being near the airport is a big no no because people will see planes. This is the real world, you can’t wrap up everyone in cotton wool. It has to be somewhere relevant to what happened. I’m trying to keep everyone happy and it’s not very easy.”
Mr Slade has organised a candlelit vigil to take place at 8pm on Saturday, September 19, at the Old Tollbridge. Candles, priced £5, can be purchased from www.geoffreysmilitarysupplies.com/#!remembrance/c1vjy £3.48 of every purchase goes to the families of the victims.
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