Bright future for Spen viaduct

A ‘UNIQUE’ landmark monument could be the focus of an arts project which would kick start massive regeneration of the structure.

Sunday, 27th March 2011, 9:04 am

Kirklees is bidding for £30,000 of Lottery funding for a community arts project inspired by the Mann Dam viaduct in Cleckheaton.

If granted, the project, which could involve performance art, songwriting, and creative writing, would be the first step to a much larger bid for funding for the full restoration of the Victorian viaduct.

Spen Valley Town and Valley Committee agreed to spend £1,590 to pay for the Lottery application at its meeting on Tuesday.

Carl Tinson, Kirklees Council investment and regeneration service officer, said: “The viaduct is referred to as the largest side bridge ever built in England. We own a unique piece of our own heritage and it provides a very important link between Gomersal and Cleckheaton.

“We are not able to raise the whole sum of money but the Lottery Heritage Grant is a great source of money and when things pick up we may well be able to put in an application. The Lottery needs the community to be involved.”

The bridge was built in 1896 as a walkway from the railway station. When the railways closed it was sold to Wilson Steel and was used by lorries. In the 1970s British Steel took it over and it became a listed structure in 1978. Kirklees Council compulsorily purchased it in 1981 after refusing permission for demolition.

In 2007, the council was quoted £600,000 for a full restoration. Mr Tinson said the Lottery had encouraged the bid, saying this project was the kind of thing it wanted to support.

Coun Kath Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said: “I wholeheartedly support this application. The viaduct has the potential to be a huge asset to the Spen Valley. We will get it restored back to a fine Victorian structure”

Coun David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) said: “Anything we can do to get the structure sound, the better. We have got to stop saying it’s a Cleckheaton thing - this is something that’s for the heritage of the whole area.”

Gordon North, vice-chairman of Spen Valley Civic Society said a previous quote of £200,000 for scaffolding during renovation seemed high — and other methods should be explored.

But committee chairman Coun Andrew Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) said those matters could be addressed once the project started. He said: “I’m very keen that we get this moving.”