Holbeck Viaduct – a community led campaign to transform an unused space

The Holbeck Viaduct Project is a community-led campaign to transform Holbeck’s iconic viaduct into a unique, vibrant and accessible green space for everyone to use and enjoy.

The viaduct, which is currently sitting unused, was originally built in 1882 for the London and Western Railway. The route, which includes 92 brick arches, was an essential transport link for Leeds as a growing industrial city. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, the viaduct fell out of use and has since been neglected. However, there is hope for the space, as a group of motivated people came together in 2012 to launch the Project.

Recently, the team behind the Project published a working document which outlines the collective aspirations of local stakeholders and community groups for the development of the area. They also recently created and shared a pre-feasibility report, which details the initial thinking and community engagement activities that have already taken place. The team discussed the working paper, the report (both of which are available to read and download from the Holbeck viaduct project website: https://www.holbeckviaduct.org.uk/) and a range of other ideas and plans for the viaduct in an open online community forum last week.

I attended the meeting and was fascinated by the plans for the viaduct, which is over 1.6km (1mile) long and runs from the City Centre through Holbeck and ends near Elland Rd. The team shared their early concepts for the space, developed by a local firm of architects, Edwards Architecture. The drawings that have been created show an open space with lots of greenery, eating areas, a large sculptural lift and staircase structure, and lots of people all coming together, enjoying the area. It was highlighted that these drawings are in their very early stages, and that the group is keen to hear from members of the community about what they would like the viaduct to look like. During the meeting, it was also emphasised that there is no certainty that the project will get the green light from the Council, planners, or from the current landowners.

In addition to an overview of the project and what has already been achieved thus far, there was time for questions and ideas to be shared. Several audience members spoke up and said that they would be interested in being involved, sharing their experience and their support for bringing the viaduct to life. It was great to hear from a local developer firm, who are currently working in a nearby area, that they are fully supportive of the plans, and it was fab to hear that local members of the community, who had relevant skills, were wanting to lend a hand and share their expertise.

I enjoyed attending the meeting and was heartened by the interest in the project from a range of organisations, individuals and groups across Leeds. The team is now looking to gather support for the project, which will include support with funding, capturing creative ideas, communicating and designing the space. They are also going to put a call out for a team of directors to join the board to steer the development of the Holbeck viaduct and hopefully ensure it is successful in being brought to life.

Images courtesy of the Holbeck Viaduct Project.

Dr Gemma Bridge

Gemma, is a freelance writer and independent researcher. She has been writing for over 10 years and loves to share what's going on in and around Leeds. She is also an international athlete, the Running Mayor of Leeds and the creator of Leeds Food Guide. You can find her on Instagram at @GLB_racewalk or @Leeds_FoodGuide, or on Twitter at @glbridge1 or @RunMayor_Leeds

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