It has been a long term ambition of Leeds City Council to provide footpaths, bridleways and a footbridge over the River Aire and canal.
This obligation originally fell to the then owner of the land the British Coal Authority (now known as The Coal Authority). However, following extensive negotiations with the landowner, in 2010 it was agreed that the land and a financial contribution would be given to the Council to realise its ambition.
In 2010 the Council started its engagement with Sustrans, as experts in the design and delivery of cycle networks, and through collaborative working have successfully delivered the bridge 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 legal and land ownership hurdles.
“ 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. ”
- 23m 'Warren truss' style foot and cycle bridge , located four miles east of Leeds, with connection to Trans Pennine Trail, as well as potential for future links to other cycle routes such as the Wye Beck Way route.
- £500,000 for delivery of the full project, including legal negotiations, design and build of the bridge.
- Worked with local community groups to develop and deliver the project.
In 2013 Leeds City Council obtained 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 various sections of third party land and establishing a good working relationship with these landowners and imparting a vision of the project objectives took time. From a technical perspective we had to provide a strong base to support a 40 tonne 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 the Wyke Beck culvert which is located in the spillway and discharges into the river so it could hold the crane.
We managed the whole project from start to finish, including a five-year approval process for planning permissions from third party land owners, 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.
The Trans Pennine 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 make Skelton Bridge part of a continuous cycle and walking route from Roundhay and Newsam, and across both the river and the canal linking Rothwell Country Park and the Trans Pennine 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 Trans Pennine 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."