Work has finally started to replace controversial steel barriers on the Loxwood High Street canal bridge with new brick-faced parapets.
There was an outcry when the original galvanised metal fence was installed in 2008 on the new bridge over a restored section of the Wey and Arun Canal.
Furious villagers claimed the barriers were more in keeping with a fence around a prison than a Sussex village.
In the wake of mounting opposition, a petition and a lively public meeting, members of the canal trust agreed to work with Loxwood Parish Council and the Loxwood Society to find a more acceptable design despite having spent £13,500 on the barriers.
The trust said it had been forced to install higher than normal barriers because there was a bridleway crossing the bridge and it had to be safe for horses and riders. It had been obliged to do what the county council wanted so it would adopt and maintain the bridge once it was completed.
The joint Loxwood bridge committee later agreed an acceptable design for the parapets. After further work with both West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and Chichester District Council (CDC), the brick-faced design was approved.
The new brick parapets will be lower and less obtrusive than the previous metal fence and will be in keeping with the award-winning Loxwood Lock and horse-bridge constructed by canal trust volunteers in 2005-6.
A fundraising effort led by the Loxwood Society and the canal trust resulted in a decision to award a contract to Concept Building Services of Midhurst, and completion is expected by early June.
Len Milsom, co-chairman of the Loxwood Society, said: “The fundraising team is grateful to the NatWest CommunityForce grants scheme, Chichester Community Chest, Billingshurst Lions and to individual canal trust members for some exceptionally generous contributions.
“Many others helped by symbolically buying a brick or buying tickets for one of the special canal cruises organised by Loxwood Society or generously responding to one of its appeals.”
Mr Milsom added: “I praise the way WACT and the village have worked over three patient years to improve the appearance of the canal bridge, but don’t forget we’re still fundraising. We have a cream tea canal cruise on Wednesday, May 16, at 2.30pm and a quiz cruise with a barbecue on Friday, June 8, at 6pm.”
Tickets available from 01403 752032.