A STAND-OFF between Bolton Council workers and staff at Smithills Open Farm ended when the council agreed to remove bollards just hours after they were installed.
Council workers arrived at 8am and started to erect the bollards to close access to all vehicles on the bridge that leads to the farm in Smithills Country Park.
Furious at the council’s decision, Anthony Grimshaw, who runs Smithills Open Farm, and his son Carl positioned their tractors at each end of the bridge, along with a car further along the road, trapping the council’s two trucks and JCB digger on the bridge.
Contractors were stuck until just after 4pm when a decision was made to remove the bollards and allow cars access to the bridge - even though they had only been installed that morning.
The move was greeted with cheers from the farm’s staff.
Bolton Council said the decision had been taken to close the route to the farm because Mr Grimshaw was not adhering to a weight and width limit for vehicles using the bridge.
It had been introduced after part of the wall collapsed several years ago.
But the 53-year-old, who has run his farm on the council-owned land since 2001, said there was no “suitable alternative” and that he had been given just four days’ notice of the impending closure.
He added: “Bolton Council wants us to keep bringing in visitors but if they close the bridge now there is no alternative for visitors — there is a back route via Moss Lea but it is in terrible condition and with no signage how will anyone know where to go?”
“We also can’t use that road for our agricultural vehicles because it goes through a residential area and we often can’t get through because of residents parking — meaning we simply can’t farm.
“So we would have no visitors and no ability to farm. We want the council to repair the bridge so it is suitable for our farm vehicles.”
Mr Grimshaw said that there are ongoing issues surrounding his negotiations with the council for a new tenancy agreement for the open farm.
Bolton Council said the bridge is unsafe for large vehicles and that it has tried “alternative methods” over the last few years to prevent larger vehicles getting through but these have not worked, so the decision to erect the bollards was made.
Temporary bollards were first erected five years ago — and have had to be replaced three times. In 2009, Bolton Council closed the access to Smithills Open Farm after walls at the sides of the road collapsed into the carriageway close to its main entrance.
An alternative path was set up but Mr Grimshaw said at the time it had caused problems.
A Bolton Council spokesman said: “We understand Mr Grimshaw’s issue regarding visitors and farm vehicles accessing the farm and we are looking at possible alternative routes.
“Negotiations with the farmer in respect of a new tenancy have been ongoing for a considerable length of time and are not yet finalised.
"We are exploring various options, including the council completing work on the bridge, or the option of the tenant buying or leasing the bridge and doing the work himself.”
Speaking after the council acted to remove the bollards from the bridge, 29-year-old Carl Grimshaw, who works with his father at the farm, added: “It looks like this time common sense has prevailed.
“We hope this will lead them to sort out the bridge once and for all.”