CHECKS on Otley Bridge and its footbridge will begin next week ahead of essential maintenance work.

Leeds City Council will use pontoons to conduct tests on the footbridge's cantilevers, and on two of the bridge's cutwaters, from Monday, October 16.

Expected to take two weeks to complete, the work will involve removing a couple of stones from the cutwaters so the wall thickness can be measured and the fill material checked.

The results will help the city council plan maintenance tasks that are not expected to be implemented until 2019.

In is letter to local councillors and residents ahead of the inspection work, the authority said: "The test results will inform the future maintenance scheme.

"In case of rising water levels or flood conditions the pontoons will be removed from the bridge. Pedestrian traffic on the footbridge will not be affected.

"We are aware that a boat hire will be operating from the landing stage, with boats going underneath the bridge, and discussions with Otley Boats Ltd are ongoing to ensure a safe operation during the works.

"We are consulting with Historic England, the Environment Agency and Natural England.

"Before any work will take place an ecologist will inspect the bridge to select the areas for the investigation which are furthest away from any bat* activities.

"However the investigations unlikely to cause any significant disturbance to bats."

The Otley and Yeadon ward's three councillors, all Liberal Democrat, have welcomed the move - and are stressing that there is no cause for concern.

Councillor Ryk Downes said: "This is one of the most heavily used footpaths in Otley and it is important that it is maintained in good condition."

Councillor Sandy Lay said: "We are assured that this is part of an ongoing maintenance programme.

"The bridge itself is in good condition and there is no suggestion that the footway is unsafe."

"The work should not affect pedestrians and vehicles," added Councillor Colin Campbell, "but if repair works are found to be necessary then they will be programmed as part of a larger repair scheme to take place in 2019."

*A colony of Daubenton's Bats - also called Water Bats, due to their habit of hunting insects on the surface of rivers, lakes and canals - roosts beneath Otley Bridge.

All bat species in the UK, along with their breeding sites and resting places, are protected by law.