Skelton Bridge- Linking communities in Leeds

Cyclists and walkers on the newly opened Skelton bridge

Cyclists and walkers on the newly opened Skelton bridge. Image credit: Steve Riding

Skelton bridge location map

When Leeds City Council bought the former Coal Board land at Skelton Lake they started a long-term ambition to build a cycle and footbridge over the River Aire.

The scenic area on the East side of Leeds had the potential to link the tourist destination of Temple Newsam manor house, Rothwell Country Park and Wyke Beck Way through a network of cycle and walking routes.

The Council wanted to find a cost-effective solution to design and build the bridge and navigate myriad technical, legal and land ownership hurdles.

Key facts

  • 23m 'Warren truss' style foot and cycle bridge , located four miles east of Leeds, with connection to Transpennine Trail, as well as potential for future links to other cycle routes
  • £350,000 for delivery of the full project, including legal negotiations, access route construction and design and build of the bridge
  • worked with local community groups to develop and deliver the project

In 2007, Leeds City Council inherited land from the former Coal Board with planning permission to build the cycle and footbridge. It was before cycle network development had begun in earnest in the City and there were few existing routes in the area.

“There were some challenges we had to overcome,” says project manager Stacey Walton at Leeds City Council.

“We needed to obtain access onto third party land and we had to provide a strong base to support a 40-foot crane to put in the bridge. Sustrans and suppliers were instrumental in coming up with cost-effective solutions to the problems.

“They were very professional and knowledgeable and I had confidence that they could do the job.”

To overcome technical problems we suggested a design which strengthened a large but weak culvert on the Wyke Beck so it could support the crane. We managed the whole project from start to finish, including a five-year approval process for planning permissions and consents from third party landowners, and technical approval for the plans.

Since the idea for Skelton Bridge first came about the rest of the city’s cycle network has caught up.

Sustrans has been working in partnership with Leeds City Council to develop the Leeds Core Cycle Network.

The Transpennine Trail, which passes close to the bridge, has become one of Britain’s most popular long distance cycle routes, voted the UK favourite by Sustrans supporters, while Leeds has also developed its cycle paths further, including the new Leeds-Bradford Cycle Superhighway.

There are now plans to link Skelton Bridge to an existing and continuous cycle and walking route, called the Wyke Beck Way, from Roundhay Park in the North of Leeds to Temple Newsman in the East, and across both the river and the canal linking Rothwell Country Park and the Transpennine Trail.

“This much-awaited bridge provides a missing link in the cycle network on the east side of Leeds, extending the existing Wyke Beck Way, and part of the City’s core cycle network,” says Councillor Richard Lewis, executive member for regeneration, transport and planning.

“Improving access for cyclists is a key priority for the Council and this new bridge at Skelton Lake will mean cyclists and walkers on the Transpennine Trail can now cross the River Aire and will eventually link new residential and commercial developments in the area with the rest of the city.”