WATER bosses say they will pay for the restoration of an historic East Lancashire bridge, after it was struck by a tanker.

Repairs have begun on the grade II listed Edisford Bridge, on the outskirts of Clitheroe, after a wall on the Waddington-bound side of the structure was damaged on Friday morning.

Part of the outer wall appears to have been struck by the vehicle, dislodging it from the main carriageway, which takes the B6243 over the River Ribble.

The tanker was delivering water to 100 homes nearby after a mains leak when it was said to have hit the bridge.

A United Utilities spokesman said: "We're liaising with our insurance team and the costs of any repair work will be covered. It won’t fall to the council taxpayer.”

John Millar, 34, from Blackburn, who regularly uses the road between Clitheroe and Waddington, said: “It looks like it’s an accident.

“But there’s no reason why council taxpayers should have to fork out if someone has been careless.”

Dozens of motorists travelling between outlying Ribble Valley villages and Clitheroe, and back, were forced to embark on lengthy diversions, including visitors to a wedding fair at Mitton Hall, over the weekend.

County council engineering bosses estimate that the repairs will take around two to three weeks to complete.

But one nearby trader was apparently remaining relatively calm about the extended bridge closure last night.

Adam Daly, assistant manager at the Edisford Bridge pub, on the Waddington side of the river, said: “It’s one of the main roads in and out of Clitheroe and it’s always quite busy.

“But if anything we got more drinkers coming into the pub because everyone had to walk over the bridge.”

County Cllr Terry Brown, who represents Clitheroe division and was himself due to attend a meeting at County Hall when the collision occurred, said: "It's been a big issue over the weekend but we've just got to get on with it.

The bridge remains open to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

The crossing point dates back to medieval times, when it was part of a toll road, and it used to mark one of the historic boundaries between Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire, before local government reorganisation in 1974.