VILLAGERS fighting to save a historic bridge say they have been told by police that if they protest again they will be fined.

Residents of Horspath awoke on Tuesday morning to find the road passing underneath the Cuddesdon Road bridge closed due to emergency work taking place on the bridge.

According to one resident, Helen Morgan, workmen at the bridge today said that signs warning of the temporary closure were meant to appear weeks ago but had not been put in place.

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A sign at the road closure warned of 'demolition in process' and residents believe the workmen were in the process of demolishing the Victorian structure.

On Wednesday afternoon, residents of the village took to the bridge to protest against its demolition, which they argue is a corridor for wildlife to pass along.

At 6pm that day, however, campaigners were told by police that they would need to return home and not protest again on the bridge otherwise they would be fined.

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Helen Morgan told the Oxford Mail: "We are not able to gather today, even if we socially distance and wear masks.

"We would be charged £200 from the police for gathering during Covid.

"If we prevent work, we would be charged with aggravated trespass.”

Highways England, which owns the bridge, said the current emergency work taking place was to remove unsafe parapets from the top of the bridge, that were deemed danger on January 21.

A Highways England spokesperson said: “Safety is our number one priority and the work to remove the leaning parapets at the top of the bridge is being undertaken due to safety concerns.

"These are safety works that won’t change the headroom under the bridge in any way.”

Ms Morgan said: “We do feel better knowing for now, only the parapets will be demolished.”

However a Freedom of Information request obtained by residents in Horspath on January 6 reveals that the bridge is still listed by Highways England as one of the bridges or tunnels in Oxfordshire that could either be infilled or demolished.

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The request did not reveal any dates the bridge could be demolished and so locals say they have 'no idea when they plan to fully take it down'.

Councillor Peter Dobson, who spoke on behalf of Horspath Parish Council, said: "The parish council are extremely concerned by the situation relating to the Horspath Bridge.

“We have successfully campaigned for decades for the bridge to remain part of our community. We are most disappointed by the lack of engagement from the authorities on this matter particularly with no notification that these emergency repair works would be taking place and the future intention for the bridge to be demolished.

"The parish council are monitoring the situation and reviewing our options."

Read more about the protest here.

The councillor added that the "attendance by residents at the bridge shows the strength of feeling regarding the bridge which is a significant architectural amenity, historical icon and wildlife corridor".

Thames Valley Police has been asked for a statement.