SKELTON GRANGE ROAD BRIDGE
Skelton Grange Road Bridge crosses the Aire Navigation just east of Thwaite Mills. It carries Sustrans’ National Cycle Network Route 67 and the Trans-Pennine Trail running between Leeds and Woodlesford. It's both a popular commuter route and a rich and scenic leisure trail which should be a great asset to Leeds for sustainable travel and tourism.
Unfortunately, the present bridge forms a major obstacle to all but the most agile travellers by bike and a complete block to many disabled people. Over many years, Leeds Cycling Campaign, Sustrans and the Trans Pennine Trail Office have received complaints from users of loaded touring bikes, electric bikes, and non-standard bikes about the impossibility of scaling or descending the steep, open concrete staircase giving access to the bridge deck from the north side. Disabled people and wheelchair or pushchair users have also complained as the steps clearly fail to comply with Disability Discrimination legislation.
Access to the bridge from the south side is similarly problematic, involving a steep, muddy slope with uneven wooden steps.
Solutions have been sought. In 2006, consultants Mouchel Parkman produced a TPT Route Feasibility Study for a “non-stepped link” at Skelton Grange Bridge. Four options were explored including running a path through the grounds of Thwaite Mills Museum, providing ramped access to the existing bridge and two options involving a new bridge. The Study concluded in favour of a new, standalone cycling and walking bridge even though this was not the least-cost option. The cost of such a bridge was put then at £640,300.
More recently, developers of an industrial site to the north of the canal applied for and eventually received planning permission on the basis that they would provide a 2.5m wide access ramp to the bridge on the south side leading to a 3m wide cycleway/footpath cantilevered off the side of the bridge and terminating in a NEW 1.5m wide stairway on the north side. The new stairway would not, of course, render NCN 67/TPT any more useable than it is now. Leeds City Council took the view, however, that a full solution was beyond a reasonable ask of the developer.
Despite the extant planning permission, the developer may elect not to use Skelton Grange Bridge and not to provide even the limited enhancement described.
It is, however, vital that something is done to render NCN 67/TPT accessible to all in the near future. The greatly improved quality of the path at Royal Armouries (as a result of post-flooding works by Sustrans/CRT) and between Goodman Street and Thwaite Mills (Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme) plus the forthcoming upgrading of the whole path towards Woodlesford funded by Highways England will throw the problem of access at Skelton Grange Bridge into harsh relief.
In the light of the above, the Leeds Cycling Campaign have requested that:
- Leeds City Council identify the provision for access for all at Skelton Grange Bridge as the highest priority;
- The Council immediately engage with partners including WYCA, CRT, Sustrans and the TPT in identifying a solution and sources of funding;
- An update on progress is brought to each future meeting of the Leeds Cycling Consultation Forum until the matter is resolved.