Holbeck Neighbourhood Forum Christmas and the Viaduct.

It’s one thing going to a community forum on Saturday morning near Christmas and it’s another thing presenting at one. I really didn’t want to send people back to sleep and tried my hardest, to make my High Line experience come across in the way I had felt it. So at 11.45am on Saturday 14th December in St. Matthews Community Centre in Holbeck, I stood up and attempted to transport 30 people to elevated train line now a revived urban linear park called the High Line in New York City.

I wanted to try and get across how it could work for Holbeck by retaining The Holbeck Viaduct as a structure which is a unique part of our industrial heritage. I attempted to link the two areas together within the context of regeneration and community partnership; both Holbeck and the Chelsea District are and were less than desirable areas to live and work.

The High Line was practically ten years in the making and was initially started by two local residents; Joshua David and Robert Hammond. In 1999 they formed the Friends of the High Line, to campaign against the rail line from being demolished. The years that followed saw a variety of specialists, the Bloomberg administration and local residents with a shared passion and drive to recreate the elevated rail line into an urban parkway. It has transformed the area and now the walkway attracts visitors from all over the world, and is the third most visited tourist destination after the Statue of Liberty and Empire States Building.

With the increase in real estate value this area has seen old warehouses renovated and more job opportunities created for the community. The park is supported by the city, membership donations and other funding to help keep this sustainable structure alive. This includes school and conservational tours, volunteering opportunities to help upkeep green space. There are vending stalls selling local art, ice cream and cafes. Lots of activities take place including yoga and community events. My personal experience was being able to feel like you’re levitating between the buildings, a contrast to the fast paced life 30 ft below on the ground.

I then led the talk towards the progress of the Holbeck Viaduct Project, a group currently active in the community and on Facebook. The aim is to link the Holbeck Urban Village to the older part of Holbeck via the Viaduct. The group has obtained the original concept designs by Bauman Lyons (Architects) back in 2000 when Yorkshire Forward planned on looking into a feaseability study for the viaduct to become a green corridor. They have also discovered the original letter that Network Rail sent to the architects about discussing possibilities. Network Rail have now said they would like to see potential funders for the project 13 years later. Ironically this was being talked about at the same time the High Line in 2000. Ellie Rogers from the council asked people to sign on a sheet she had handy for people interested in supporting the group.

There was also talk of the Viaduct being made as a walkway from the southern entrance of the station on match days for the supporters to walk to Elland Road. In fact any peaceful routes into South Leeds would be welcomed, and if that’s to be on a majestic structure of historical engineering then why not?

Here’s some pictures of my presentation.
Thanks for reading.
Lucy

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