First look: Leeds Victorian viaduct plans ‘based on New York high rise park’

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Ambitious plans to transform the top of a Leeds Victorian viaduct into a park – based on elevated public space in Manhattan – are set to be approved.

The arches of Doncaster Monk Bridge, off Whitehall Road in Leeds, would also provide new commercial space for shops, cafes, bars and restaurants if councillors agree to thescheme on Thursday (May 18) as recommended.

Members of Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel will also decide if they should delegate approval about whether to allow apartments across multiple buildings to be built next to the historic bridge.

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Designed by Thomas Grainger in 1846, the old railway line goes over the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

The chairman of the panel, Coun James McKenna, said he was in favour of the proposals.

He said: “In some ways it’s based on the High Line in New York. Apparently it’s fantastic along there, people use it all the time. It’s a longer stretch in New York than ours is, but ours is much wider – it’s as wide as Briggate.”

He added: “It’s a stone build, so it’s going to be a golden, honey colour which is going to be pleasing to the eye.”

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long park built on disused railway in New York City, itself based on a similar scheme completed in Paris.

Developer ART PRS Leeds GP Limited has made a full application for the viaduct and 307 private apartments in three blocks. The company has also submitted an outline plan for two blocks – one up to 21 storeys – of 300 units.

Coun McKenna said that the scheme would help the council to meet its housing targets and could take away some of the demand on the authority’s green belt sites.

The applicant has already signed a contract with a builder to start work on the viaduct and first three apartment buildings in August, according to a council document. In the report for the panel members, it says that the park would “give views across the city”, with pathways leading through trees and flowers.

It recommends that approval for the full application is delegated to chief planning officer Tim Hill, subject to the developer contributing more than £150,000 and providing affordable homes.

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