A PICTURESQUE walk along the River Don in Sheffield - opened to great fanfare just five years ago - has been closed at least 12 times because of metal theft, vandalism and maintenance problems, The Star can reveal.
The Five Weirs Walk, which stretches for five miles from the city centre to Meadowhall, was unveiled in 2007 after 20 years of planning and £8 million of public money.
Today, two of the three bridges that form the centrepieces of the route are closed, with cyclists and walkers redirected along some of the busiest roads in the city centre.
John Mothersole, chief executive of Sheffield Council, said the ‘mindless actions’ of vandals were to blame - and pledged to get the route open again.
“It is an absolute disgrace that two decades of hard work by volunteers and committed council staff has been destroyed by petty thieves,” he said.
“Stealing metal is bad enough, but putting people’s lives at risk as well is nothing short of mindless.
“The worst part of all this is the scrap value of the metal is minuscule compared to how much pleasure the Five Weirs Walk has brought to so many people.
“Of course we will do whatever we can to restore the walk to its former glory.”
The Cobweb Bridge at the end of The Wicker - built at a cost of £1 million in 2003, after years of planning problems - is currently shut for the sixth time.
Rotting wooden decking on the bridge has broken through for the second time, and Sheffield Council is trying to find a contractor to replace the custom-built planks.
The first time the bridge was closed, at the other end of its span, the replacement decking was paid for by the manufacturer.
The Cobweb Bridge has also been closed four times before because of thieves stealing metal cables and safety rails.
Below Norfolk Bridge, the Little Cobweb bridge has been stripped of nearly all the railings and most of the cables which suspend it above the water.
It is the second time it has been closed. The Bailey Bridge, off Effingham Road, is currently open, but it too has been closed four times.
Mandy Williams, who works at The Norfolk Bridge Diner next to the Little Cobweb bridge, told The Star: “We used to see a lot of walkers coming along here, but not so much any more.
“I honestly can’t believe they spent £8 million on that walk.”
Her colleague Bridgette Damms added: “It’s about time they sorted it out. It should be reopened.”
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for environment, said: “Vandals putting people at risk is disgusting and will not be tolerated. We work closely with the police in these instances.”
I’d always urge people to be vigilant and help in the fight against metal theft.”