A community living near a waterway has been left stranded away from shops and schools after canal bosses whipped away their footbridge.

Now British Waterways has admitted it did not inform more than 100 residents of Majors Green, Shirley, about the removal of the bridge over the Stratford-Birmingham canal.

The crossing in Drawbridge Road is in the process of being upgraded so cars can use it and had been replaced with a temporary footpath.

But without warning, the structure was removed.

The problems was discovered when youngsters living in the area, who had crossed the bridge in the morning on the way to school, found it gone on their return journey.

They had to navigate their way down an additional mile-and-a-half of canal path to cross the canal via an aqueduct.

A British Waterways spokeswoman said the bridge, used by the residents every day to reach schools, shops and the local railway station, had been taken away to carry out essential structural repairs.

She said: "A structure called the Shirley drawbridge, which is a pedestrian bridge, was removed for repair work.

"We decided we would shut the canal so there was an inconvenience to users of the canal. We had a conversation with our contractors who said the bridge was in a lot worse condition than what was earlier anticipated and this only came to light after they were dismantling the bridge.

"We consulted with boating customers and Warwickshire County Council and because the demand of the boating customers was so great, wanting to access the canal, which is particularly popular right over Christmas, a lot of people were waiting for it to be opened.

"What we did, and we accept in hindsight, was while we consulted with major parties, we did not actually go to the residents concerned and obviously the residents became aware of this when the constructors were dismantling the bridge."

She added an alternative route would be up and running no later than January 8.

Resident Brian Holmes, a retired milkman, spent three hours ferrying people to their destinations. "I think it is a bit irresponsible of British Waterways," said Mr Holmes, aged 63.

"It affects about 125 residents and not everybody has a car. There are elderly people, children and mothers with prams who use that bridge. The alternative is using the aqueduct, which is not particularly pleasant and

means a much longer trip.

"About 15 schoolchildren use that bridge to get home, and you don't really want them having to walk down dark canal-side paths. There were people arriving home from work from the station as well, not knowing what had happened. That's why I took the car down there."

His wife, Christine, said British Waterways had advertised the canal as being open 365 days a year in its magazine, and had to remove the bridge – which is not high enough to allow boats underneath – when they realised the structure would make Christmas use impossible. She said: "Until January 9 when the new bridge is open, they are giving boats priority.

"But they don't seem to have thought about the residents who need the bridge every day for basic services."