OTLEY Bridge may get an 800th birthday present courtesy of a local transport group.

The bridge is one of the oldest in the country and it is believed it will be 800 years old next year. Otley Town Partnership Transport Group members have been looking at a range of transport issues across the Town.

Richard Pulleyn who chairs the group said: "Among other things we have recently been discussing are the difficulties faced by pedestrians and cyclists travelling between the north of Otley and the Town centre over Otley's historic bridge. Sadly, crossing the bridge is not always as pleasant an experience as it should be so we decided to try to find ways this could be improved".

Jim Spencer who is coordinating the project said: "Otley's bridge is fast approaching its 800th birthday and, though it is still going strong, it does suffer from the pressures of the modern world in particular it is difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to use. In the 1950s a concrete walkway was added to the structure but this is near the end of its life so we are looking for an alternative that might also reveal the original bridge in all its glory.

"We believe that there needs to be some new thinking so we are proposing to ask Leeds University if some of their students could look at this. We hope they will approach this with a fresh pair of eyes and come up with an innovative proposal to solve an old problem".

Cllr Colin Campbell who is also a member of the group said "It's good to see that groups who are committed to Otley are willing to work for local improvements. As local councillors we are happy to support a project which could bring improvements".

Otley Bridge is a scheduled ancient monument and is also the focal point of the riverside area of the Otley Conservation Area, linking the two halves of the town. The eastern side dates back to the 13th century when the Archbishop of York, titular Lord of the Manor of Otley, had it built to provide a more direct route to York.

It was substantially rebuilt in 1775-6 and the western side was widened, in work planned and overseen by John Gott, subsequently Surveyor of Bridges for the West Riding of Yorkshire. A cantilevered pedestrian walkway was added on the western side in 1957 to improve pedestrian safety as traffic levels grew.