Dewsbury Riverside Way is a community proposal for the creation of a dedicated pedestrian and cycling route taking advantage of existing footpaths and infrastructure between the new development at Dewsbury Riverside and Dewsbury town centre. And to go further by connecting to sustainable transport links to Mirfield and Huddersfield in the west and east to Ossett and Wakefield.
In addition, by connecting to other available green space it is possible to create a swathe of green, recreational space encircling the west and south of Dewsbury as well as dramatically improving connectivity for walkers and cyclists to both east and west.
Dewsbury Riverside - driving the design
It is clearly important that the major new housing development called Dewsbury Riverside located south of the river opposite Ravensthorpe is well connected to the town centre. However, there is little indication in published material of how this will be done.
Failing to take advantage of the green space available will force pedestrians and cyclists moving between the Riverside development and the town centre to share the noise, pollution and hazards created by the increased vehicular traffic on Forge Lane and will fail to take the opportunity to open up a neglected recreational resource to a large proportion of the community..
This proposal creates a green corridor between the new development and the town centre. And area that is currently neglected and underutilised principally because it is mostly inaccessible - but could become a major feature of the town. The green corridor will also connect Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury Moor, Ravensthorpe and Savile Town and meet both Kirklees policy objectives and national and council standards for sustainable transport.
By identifying the work necessary on footpaths and cycle ways in order to make the green corridor effective this proposal helps the council to develop a clear vision of how relatively inexpensive sustainable transport strategies can be used to create an attractive feature in Dewsbury.
Policy & Plans
The Kirklees Transport Vision 2025 makes a clear commitment to:
"B: A sustainable transport system that encourages healthy citizens, promotes social inclusion and preserves and enhances the local environment."
The Kirklees Local Plan on Sustainable travel (PLP 20) states:
"Proposals for new development shall be designed to encourage sustainable modes of travel and will be required to facilitate the needs of the following user hierarchy:
c. public transport
d. private vehicles"
Local Plan and National Planning Policy Framework
17.3 of the Local Plan states: 'The NPPF also recognises that access to high quality open spaces and opportunities for sport and recreation can make an important contribution to the health and well-being of communities. Within the urban areas of Kirklees many open spaces, both public and private, provide opportunities for sport and recreation to encourage physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. These urban green spaces also perform an important function by providing visual breaks in built up areas, contributing to the local character and attractiveness of towns and villages and providing important wildlife habitats. Green spaces of particular importance to local communities have been identified for special protection as local green space.'
Click images to enlarge
Interestingly, there is no Local Green Space identified in the Local Plan mapping, although there is an area identified as Strategic Green Infrastructure Network Ext which materially coincides with this proposal.
It is to be hoped that the terminology is only a detail and that the council has the same overall concept that is being proposed here. However, this proposal seeks to bring to the council's attention that it is only by making this space accessible will the concept of the Strategic Green Infrastructure become a reality.
The developer's master plan for Dewsbury Riverside, the relevant Cabinet paper and the Dewsbury Strategic Development Framework 2018 all make passing reference to developing or improving walking or cycling provision each within its own boundaries.
But none of them address how these principles may be implemented to connect the Dewsbury Riverside development which will add 4,000 houses and a population in excess of 10,000 to the existing town.
The Dewsbury Riverside residential development has no direct connection to the riverside and without a plan in place at the development stage, is more likely to develop into an isolated satellite than as an integral part of the town.
This proposal to create a green corridor linking Dewsbury Riverside with the town centre covering a 2km stretch of footpath and cycle way running through green areas adjacent to the river that will:
Dewsbury Riverside Way is also the central element of a green recreational space encircling the West and South of Dewsbury which could become a major feature of the town.
An Opportunity for Dewsbury Riverside
An opportunity to deliver a substantial recreational resource while achieving policy objectives at a low cost.
The new Dewsbury Riverside housing development is approximately 2 km south west of Dewsbury town centre, a distance which is easily walkable and bikeable as a matter of routine. However, none of the planning documents seen to date make reference to suitable provision for cycling or walking.
A quick view of the map will show that all of the increased vehicle traffic will be routed along Forge Lane and Savile Road.
Without alternative routes being available for pedestrians and cyclists they will be forced to share the increased noise, pollution and hazards of these roads.
It is highly unlikely that residents will want to cycle or walk along the Forge Lane route between Riverside and the town centre - thereby forcing them into their cars, increasing the volume of traffic and making the problem worse..
Dewsbury Riverside - what's in a name?
It is not for us to criticise the choice of name for Dewsbury Riverside.. However, it is worth pointing out that from current published plans, the majority of houses on the Riverside development will have no access to the River Calder and will probably have a view of the local cement factory and/or the industrial estate around the power station on the south bank and/or the railway station and the inevitable associated car park when that is included in the plans.
This will be made worse when the strategic road is added along the northern boundary to cross the river at Greenwood Lock thus adding a multi-lane highway to the obstacles separating residents from the river.
Click image to enlarge
However, there are large swathes of land on the direct route into Dewsbury that will shortly complete the process of sand and gravel extraction.
This area could provide a substantial recreational and environmental asset and already includes a number of footpaths and some cycle ways.
Strategic planning at this stage could provide a substantial and attractive recreational resource.
By creating and promoting Dewsbury Riverside Way the council and developers can link the extensive recreational space as a benefit to buyers on the housing development that also connects them to further green space via the Spen Valley Greenway bridge leading into the southern end of Dewsbury Country Park - which also connects to the Ponderosa recreational facilities.
Direct Routes: common sense planning
The developers master plan identifies the junction of Forge Lane and Ravensthorpe Road as one of the gateways to Riverside. The railway station in its new location is another starting point.
People inevitably choose to travel the shortest distance and the two direct routes shown terminating at the ASDA bridge should be taken as the target routes to enable people to move quickly and easily between the two locations.
For those wishing to spend minimum time on their journey then motorised travel along Forge Lane and Savile Road is the obvious route. However, we are discussing sustainable travel where national policy calls for separation from vehicles
There are a number of existing footpaths and designated cycleways in the area, however, crucially, none that cross the river when travelling from the two designated start points and none that cross Thornhill Road
The situation in the flood defence area shown below is also confused with no public right of way through this area according to either the Ordnance Survey or the Kirklees Definitive Map although it is the most heavily used route.
Crossing the river
Assuming that the right of way through the flood defence area can be resolved the obvious problem is that there is no way to cross the river.
Existing pipeline bridge
The existing pipeline bridge (in red) is well placed to provide a crossing point to connect the footpaths on the north and south banks and for pedestrians/cyclists arriving from the Forge Lane gateway provided that a route can be created across the gravel extraction site from the existing rights of way(also in red).
The bridge is of robust construction with stone pillars. It would seem possible to adapt the bridge with the loads of any additional structure carried directly into the stonework without affecting the existing pipeline.
This bridge is adjacent to the weir and could be a visually pleasing focal point with a sweeping architectural structure with low gradient ramps suitable for wheelchairs, child buggies and bicycles.
Fortuitously the footpath on the south bank has recently been extensively widened and reinforced with hard core to enable heavy vehicles to reach the railway bridge for engineering works. This has completely opened up the footpath on the south bank except for the section running behind the mills on the approach to Cleggford Bridge.
Cleggford Bridge cul-de-sac
This stretch towards the Cleggford Bridge comes to a dead stop at the bridge.
Thornhill Road is a major traffic route with a double roundabout death trap for pedestrians and the riverbank provides no space for a continuation of the path.
However, the stretch alongside the mill immediately before the bridge provides an intriguing example of Victorian architecture and evidence that: 'where there's a will there's a way'.. This route was sufficiently heavily used by pedestrians in the past to justify building the walkway out over the river with some attractive cast iron handrails..
..then bringing them up to street level with these steps.
The double roundabout junction at Cleggford Bridge and the absence of any viable space on either bank of the river north of Cleggford Bridge effectively bring this route into town to a halt in this direction.
This emphasises the need to create a new crossing between the south and north banks via the pipeline bridge.
Northern Riding Centre to ASDA
The existing route along the north bank and alongside the industrial estate thta doubles as the cycleway runs alongside industrial units.
On the south/east bank is a wide stretch of flood plain where a route has been marked in red that could be developed as part of this walk together with a further bridge. This would serve two purposes.
Firstly, the bridge enables pedestrians and cyclists from the south and heading for eastern Dewsbury to reach Savile Town without being forced out among the traffic on Forge Lane and Savile Road.
Secondly, it provides access for the residents of Savile Town to the whole Riverside Way and into Dewsbury Country Park without going near a road.
The new section of the route from the Savile Town entry point to the ASDA bridge provides access to a much wider and more attractive part of the river bank than is currently available alongside the industrial units on the north bank. It also makes a circuit route available by crossing the ASDA bridge and returning on the opposite bank for those walking for pleasure rather than to reach a destination.
Existing cycle routes are shown below in yellow, As is clear, there is no connection across Dewsbury other than using public roads.
The section on the southern perimeter of the gravel workings is brand new and part of the Section 106 commitment associated with the planning permission granted to Dewsbury Sand & Gravel. It remains incomplete and links the NC 66 Greenway to Forge Lane.
While well intentioned and probably a good idea at the time, the new cycleway still decants cyclists into the increasing levels of traffic on Forge Lane is not a good idea unless they are specifically travelling in that direction..
Connecting across Dewsbury
While there has been talk for many years of some sort of riverside park at Sands Lane, no use at all is currently made of the river running through the centre of town or of the substantial investment in the flood defence structures.
Using the existing investment in the flood defences to provide cycling and walking connectivity through the centre of Dewsbury would provide massive benefit for very little cost while opening up the river running through the centre of town as an attractive feature rather than being ignored as currently happens.
All riverside paths are underwater at times of severe flooding and thoughtful signage should enable use of the flood defences for cycling and walking and a dramatic improvement in safe, pleasant access through and across Dewsbury to connect to the Ossett Greenway at very low cost and for the vast majority of the time.
Published strategic planning documents for the town centre indicates the conversion of the Farmfoods, Carpetright, B&M retail area into residential use. With the river running alongside this space the council should be planning now to bring this riverside resource into use for both functional and cosmetic reasons.
Proposal - a Green Corridor
That a Green Corridor is created linking Dewsbury Riverside with Dewsbury Town Centre to make maximum use of the potential for walking and cycling in accordance with Council policy as well as opening out the potential of large stretches of the underutilised riverside for recreational use.
If the most direct route into Dewsbury is prioritised from the two entry points across a new bridge and the route is improved to cycleway standards then a dramatic improvement in cycling access can be made connecting the Riverside development both to Dewsbury and across the town to connect to Ossett and on to Wakefield.
Connecting West to Mirfield and Huddersfield
This post describes the whole concept of Dewsbury Riverside Way as an asset for recreation and sustainable transport within the Dewsbury area. However, to make transformational changes to travel habits we need to connect between towns and the towpath between Greenwood Lock and the Calder Road bridge is a critical pinch point in this development that needs to be dealt with.
In addition, to the major connecting paths, other riverside footpaths should be upgraded to all weather surface in order to make the area accessible to young mothers with baby buggies, wheelchair users and the elderly for exercise and recreation.
Many of the footpaths identified here already exist but are little used. Large sections of the riverside are currently never seen by local residents because of the difficulty of access along overgrown footpaths.
Giving meaning to 'Dewsbury Riverside'
Providing quality access to the stretch of river bank between the Calder Road Bridge and Cleggford Bridge would give meaning to the name of Dewsbury Riverside.
By improving access and developing the natural environment along this green corridor a route can be developed that is attractive to residents, meets Kirklees health and wellbeing policy objectives and transport policy objectives.
It also has the potential to become a destination in itself as the Dewsbury Riverside Way.
There are many issues of land ownership and rights of way that can only be resolved by the council, private landowners and others. However, this concept is provided in order to begin a conversation among stakeholders about the feasibility of this idea and its inclusion in a future vision for Dewsbury.
What Do You Think?
The Riverside Way is just one aspect of what members of the community think Dewsbury could look like in the future. We need to produce our own ideas if we are to get the town we want instead of what other people think we should have.
So, go on. Add your comments below. After all, this is what Kirklees says:
‘If we are serious about developing active citizens it is important that we work harder to harness the knowledge and energy they have. It is for this reason that we recommend a shift away from our current approach to consultation, towards genuine engagement.’
Page 82, para 3 of Kirklees Democracy Commission
Update as at 10 April 2021
The new and repositioned railway station at Ravensthorpe was identified at the beginning of this post as an entry point to the footpath and cycleway network into the town centre.
Network Rail have now submitted a Transport and Works Order to the Secretary of State for Transport which clarifies their choice of a bridge to deal with the junction at Ravensthorpe where the number of tracks is planned to be doubled from two to four as part of the Trans Pennine Upgrade.
As can be seen from the artists impression below these major rail works which will take several years to construct run in close proximity or even overrun many of the proposals for Riverside Way. While this may be viewed as a negative it is also possible that dramatic upgrades to existing paths may well be achieved in the longer term as part of the landscaping necessary when the works are completed.
That would, of course depend on early consultation between the council, other stakeholders and Network Rail to ensure that the restitution work done delivers the maximum benefit to pathways while staying within the rail project costs.