Plan to turn historic Leeds viaduct into New York-style ‘sky park’ reaches next stage

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Plans to turn a historic Leeds viaduct into a ‘sky park’ with echoes of New York and Paris have moved a step closer to being realised, with the publication of a major new report backing the idea.

The Holbeck Viaduct Project wants to reopen the mile-long viaduct as a green public space for travel, events, growing and more.

Built in the second half of the 19th Century, the structure - starting in the city centre near Granary Wharf and ending near the Farnley ring road - has been unused since 1988.

The sky park idea is inspired by the acclaimed New York Highline, with echoes of the Paris promenade and other international schemes.

Over the past year, a group of volunteers have been working on a detailed scoping study.

And they have now concluded that the revamped viaduct could become “an iconic, inspiring landmark for Leeds which is also a practical and useful asset for local residents, organisations and businesses”.

Ed Carlisle, one of the organisers for the Holbeck Viaduct group, at the site

Ed Carlisle, one of the organisers for the Holbeck Viaduct group, at the site

The study found that the project could be completed for around £2million of capital funding, a third of the previous £6million ‘high end’ estimate, and that work could be completed by 2023.

It is hoped the study and its recommendations will pave the way for further talks with Leeds City Council and site owners Network Rail, leading to a fuller feasibility study.

John Paddington, a local resident and one of the volunteer team currently leading the project, said: “It’s really great to see the huge interest the viaduct project generates and this is shown by the support we get and the people willing to volunteer their time to develop the project.”

Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, councillor Richard Lewis said: “This is one of those ideas that has the potential to bring a raft of benefits to the city. It would be great to see an ambitious community-led project happen in this part of South Leeds.

“The Holbeck viaduct has the potential – at the very least – to create a car-free connection between Holbeck and the city centre, but could even become a linear park and a visitor attraction in its own right.

“Bringing it back into use in this way – and it hasn’t been used for train movements for many years – would show the city making imaginative use of its industrial heritage for a social good.”

The Holbeck plan is separate from another private-sector scheme proposal for the Monk Bridge viaduct in Whitehall.

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