VISITORS who have left tokens of their love on Chester's Queens Park Suspension Bridge can reclaim them after the iconic landmark was refurbished.

There are more than 330 'love locks' on the bridge – some specially engraved and many left by international visitors.

But a recent structural assessment by bridge engineers has revealed that the padlocks pose a threat to the bridge's capacity to resist the effects of wind and will have to be removed.

Owners who still have keys have at least three weeks to reclaim them. The remainder will be removed and stored locally until the end of the year. To re-claim yours, ring Chester Locality Office on 01244 972734.

Removal of the locks will take place to coincide with the resurfacing of the bridge.

The operation follows the recent Paris emergency when tourists had to be evacuated from the Pont des Arts across the Seine after pieces of the parapet crumbled away under the weight of metal love token.

Cllr Lynn Riley, Chester's executive member for localities said: "We have taken the logical decision to act before there is any imminent danger to the public.

"At the same time we are doing the best that circumstances will allow, to respect the sensitivities of those who attached the locks and may want to have them back as a keepsake."

Queens Park Cllr Neil Sullivan said: "The Queens Park Suspension Bridge is a handsome structure in its own right which, to be fair, has just cost our council taxpayers a tidy sum to refurbish.

"Whilst appreciating the romantic significance of the locks, many residents don’t believe they enhance the appearance of the bridge, particularly when they are damaging its new paintwork when moved around by the wind."

Tokens of everlasting love and commitment, love locks have appeared in cities around the world – particularly Europe – with lovers symbolically locking their love and then throwing away the key.

The craze has grown to such an extent that companies have even taken to manufacturing them especially in bright colours and even gold or silver plate.

Their true origin – possibly China or Serbia – is lost in the mists of time, but some well-known bridges have been so overloaded with love that local authorities have had to take action to remove them.

At least one council has even banned street sellers from attempting to cash in on the craze.