A COMMUNITY of pensioners have been cut-off from their town after an ancient bridge collapsed leaving them stranded.

The only official access they have to the rest of Loftus, Cleveland, is via a steep public path which is impossible for some of the infirm residents to negotiate.

The bridge was badly damaged during the floods of last September meaning around 15 people, many of them elderly, have been isolated for five months.

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Redcar and Cleveland Council initially estimated that it would cost £80,000 to repair the bridge, but after the structure collapsed last year residents discovered that it was owned by a woman who lives on the street.

She had no idea she was responsible for the bridge until it was damaged and inspection of the deeds to her property revealed her as the owner.

The emergency services have limited access to Gaskell Lane in the town, leaving some residents in fear for their safety.

Resident Betty Atkinson, 85, who lives with her husband Peter, 90, said: "It is very difficult for us to get out of here.

"The residents in this area are all elderly and some are well into their 80s.

"We are quite cut off, with no real access to the town. It is absolutely ruining our social life.

"We simply don't go out anywhere any more."

In order to leave the road the residents face a ten-minute hike up a rocky path.

It is not lit, which means that pensioners must carry torches with them if they plan to go out after dark.

Kath Horness, 56, is looking after her 90-year-old mother-in-law.

She said: "It is a nightmare.

"My mother-in-law has not left the street in five months, since the bridge was damaged."

The bridge was damaged in September and as a precaution vehicles were banned, although it was still possible to walk over.

But by January 31 both foot and road access was stopped.

Kath Himsworth, 68, owns a farmhouse which does have private access to the rest of the town, and she has been allowing residents to drive through.

The retired teacher said: "It is worrying because there is no room to get an ambulance in, and nowhere to land a helicopter.

"One lady has a pace-maker which keeps breaking down.

"It is a dangerous situation."

Councillor Helen McLuckie, cabinet member for highways, transport and planning, said: "This was an extreme weather event and was far in excess of normal conditions we would expect at this location.

"We have held meetings with residents and the neighbourhood team are constantly assessing the bridge and assisting with any issues that arise for the residents.

"Monitoring and assessments are on-going and we will do what we can, the bottom line, unfortunately is the council doesn't own the bridge, but we are working with other agencies to identify possible solutions for the residents and we will continue to assist where we can."