Dewsbury Riverside Way
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.
While it is important that the major housing development at Riverside is well connected to the town centre, there is little indication in published material of how this will be done and there is every indication that it will, in fact, concentrate all pedestrian, cycling and vehicle traffic onto Forge Lane leading into Savile Road.
By doing so, this will force pedestrians and cyclists to share the noise, pollution and hazards created by the increased vehicular traffic.
This will effectively eliminate pedestrians and cyclists from this route contrary to council policy and will fail to take the opportunity to open up a large recreational resource.
This proposal creates a green corridor between the new development and the town centre that also connects Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury Moor and Ravensthorpe into a green, recreational resource that is currently little used but could become a major feature of the town.
The opportunity exists at this early stage for the council to apply strategic planning, to deal with landowner issues and to create an attractive feature in Dewsbury rather than the usual method of planning for cars first and people last.
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"
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 better described as Dewsbury South than as an integral part of the town.
The following proposal envisages the creation of 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:
An opportunity to deliver a substantial recreational resource while achieving policy objectives at a low cost.
Dewsbury Riverside 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. While this may be desirable for vehicle traffic, unless separate provision is made for pedestrians and cyclists they will be forced to share the increased noise, pollution and hazards.
It is highly unlikely that this will lead to many cyclists or walkers travelling between Riverside and the town centre.
Riverside - what's in a name?
It would appear from current published plans that the majority of houses on the Riverside development have a view of the Newlay cement factory and/or the industrial estate around the power station on the south bank and/or the railway station.
None of them have any access to the River Calder riverside.
This will be exacerbated 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.
However, there are large swathes of land on the direct route into Dewsbury that could provide a substantial recreational and environmental asset. This area already includes a number of footpaths and some cycle ways.
While these are, no doubt, in private ownership, strategic planning at this stage could provide a substantial and attractive recreational resource.
For recreational purposes, focusing residents attention towards the north also directs them towards the Spen Valley Greenway bridge across the River Calder leading into the southern end of Dewsbury Country Park.
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 is another starting point whether in its current location or on the Newlay Concrete site as shown by the developers.
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.
There are a range of existing footpaths and access routes not currently designated as footpaths that can make this route possible. Note that the section shown in yellow along the flood defence sometimes called Dewsbury Canal or Cut is not a public footpath but is a designated cycle track.
This route is also interrupted by the need to cross Thornhill Road which needs some attention. Best planning practice for cycle routes is that they should be uninterrupted and this needs some attention.
Starting from the Forge Lane gateway
There is an existing footpath from the Forge Lane junction heading north along Lees Hall Road. By adding new provision as shown below in yellow then a reasonably direct route is achievable from both start points.
Starting from the railway station
The railway station may well attract commuters cycling down from Heckmondwike or beyond. It is also likely to become the departure point for future services direct to London thereby attracting passengers from the town centre.
Approx 500m of new pathway is required to connect the station to the riverside footpath for those heading north towards Heckmondwike and 500m to the southerly Dewsbury route originating at Forge Lane/Lees Hall Road.
From Forge Lane
All the footpaths heading north towards Dewsbury arrive at a dead end at the river and/or the Forge Lane/Savile Road junction.
The footpath terminating at Savile Road provides an intriguing piece of Victorian architecture. This route was sufficiently heavily used by pedestrians in the past to justify building the walkway out over the river...
..then bringing them up to street level with these steps.
However, this now brings pedestrians onto the Forge Lane/Savile Road junction with a double roundabout where the ‘safety rails’ force pedestrians to cross where vehicles may be approaching from three different directions simultaneously. This is a pedestrian death trap to be avoided. It is also off the most direct route.
A solution to the ‘dead end’ would be to use the existing pipeline bridge shown in yellow on the map crossing the river to support an additional walk/cycle way. This bridge has substantial stone buttresses and may well be able to take an additional structure without impacting the existing pipeline.
This bridge is adjacent to the weir and could be the focal point of a visually pleasing point of attraction with an opportunity to cater for wheelchairs, child buggies and bicycles with low gradient ramps incorporated into a sweeping architectural structure.
If we can see it then it should be worth looking at!
Existing pipeline bridge
To reach this bridge requires approx 300m of new path across the current gravel workings owned by Dewsbury Sand & Gravel which are coming to the end of their extraction process. This route appears to have been an access path to the bridge in the past but not a public footpath.
Future use of the gravel workings for recreational use could also be considered after the restoration of the site required by the current planning permission. The owners will no doubt seek profitable use of the land and the Council will need to develop strategic plans to incorporate common objectives.
Northern Riding Centre to ASDA
The existing route along the north bank and alongside the industrial estate is less than optimum due to the litter and dirt from the industrial units overlooking the path on the left.
On the south bank is a wide stretch of flood plain where a route has been marked in yellow that could be developed as part of this walk.
The fact that it is flood plain is not material given that the commonly used path on the north bank was also some 4 ft underwater during recent floods.
A further bridge would be required where the yellow line crosses the river and there is no existing infrastructure.
Existing cycle routes are shown below in pale blue coming in from the West and departing to the East. 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.
The sections on either side in pink are part of the same commitment but not yet constructed and are intended to link to the NC 66 Greenway and to Forge Lane.
While well intentioned and probably a good idea at the time, decanting cyclists into the increasing levels of traffic on Forge Lane is not a good idea when there is a better solution available unless they are travelling to Savile Town when it is the most direct route.
Connecting to Leeds, Ossett & Wakefield
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.
While connecting the existing flood defences (new route shown in pink below) to the cycleway and footpaths would have some safety issues related to use in time of flood these are not insurmountable. There are endless miles of foot and tow paths alongside rivers and canals with no limitations on use except the common sense of users. Some work is required along Sands Lane to connect to the Ossett Greenway and all the connection points would require some work to provide smooth transitions.
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.
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.
Fortuitously, recent work on the rail bridge over the Calder has required access by heavy vehicles along the river bank from Forge Lane. In turn this has required an improvement in the bearing surface. The result is that the public footpath along the river bank shown in purple is now an 8ft wide hard core surface.
However, as can be seen from the photo below, this improved access has already started to be used by anglers who are using the public footpath for vehicular access.
While this proposal is considered it is clearly important that anglers are reminded that this route is a public footpath. They should not be allowed to develop an argument that vehicular access is an established practice.
Giving meaning to 'Riverside'
Providing quality access to the stretch of river bank between the Calder Bridge and Cleggford Bridge would give meaning to the name of Dewsbury Riverside.
A bridge close to the Northern Riding Centre would also provide access to Savile Town making the entire resource accessible to residents of Riverside, Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury Moor, Savile Town and Thornhill Lees.
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.
On 21st June 2019 Kirklees issued a Public Path Order dated 28th June covering Public Footpath 117 whereby the public footpath providing one of the routes to the potential bridge crossing has been closed and diverted to the new cycle route that terminates onto Forge Lane.
While well meaning to make use of the newly developed cycle route, this closure reduces the potential benefits of this proposal by and should be reviewed in the broader context described here.
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