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Teston Bridge: Ben Emery, 23, from Westgate charged with drink driving

By David Gazet

A man has been charged with drink driving after a car caused £75,000 of damage to a medieval bridge.

Highways officials shut Teston Bridge, near Maidstone, to traffic yesterday, after concerns were raised a section was in danger of collapsing into the river.

It has since emerged the structure was in fact struck just after 1.30am on Saturday, August 5, when a white BMW, allegedly driven by Ben Emery from Westgate, crashed in Teston Lane while heading in the direction of Tonbridge Road.

Damage to the bridge. Picture: Mike Mahoney
More views of the damage. Picture: Mike Mahoney

The 23-year-old, of Belmont Road was arrested at the scene and charged with drink-driving.

He has been bailed to appear before Maidstone magistrates on Friday.

Teston Bridge. Stock picture

The listed single lane bridge has been closed until September 3 while repairs are completed.

However this morning a witness reported seeing a Corsa crash through temporary barriers put up by Kent County Council (KCC) and continue across the bridge, again towards Tonbridge Road.

A spokesman said:“We are aware that a driver ignored the road closure and elected to drive through the barriers and over the bridge this morning.

“The temporary barriers have now been reinstated and the bridge has been checked for any further damage.

“We would take this opportunity to remind drivers that the bridge has been closed for safety reasons; by disregarding the road closure they are not only committing an offence but are also putting themselves and potentially our workforce at risk.”

The spokesman added after the first incident, temporary repairs were put in place but the closure of the bridge became necessary after its condition deteriorated.

A driver went through temporary barriers set up after Teston Bridge was damaged by an alleged drink driver. Picture by Mike Mahoney

An alternative route is via Tonbridge Road, Bow Road, Maidstone Road, Hampstead Lane, Benover Road, High Street, Yalding Hill and onto Lower Road.

Due to the danger to river traffic passing underneath, the bridge has been temporarily closed to all boats.

KCC has instructed a contractor to build scaffolding to secure the structure, which is due to be completed by Sunday, after which the waterway can be reopened when works aren't underway.

Teston Bridge was damaged last June after the wall was struck by a vehicle and partially collapsed.

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