In 2007 the School of Architecture, Landscape and Design at Leeds Metropolitan University was commissioned to prepare a Feasibility Study of the Park Proposals funded by grants from the National Lottery and Leeds City Council. Their initial report on "Movement and Circulation" was published in April 2008.
Download a compact A4 version of the initial 2008 report (PDF file 2.4MB).
Download a high resolution A3 version of the initial 2008 report (PDF file 13.7MB).
More detailed design work continues on the "Riverside Way" through the centre of the valley, and a further draft report was issued in April 2009.
Download a medium resolution A4 version of the draft 2009 report (PDF file 7.3 MB).
An HTML version of the 2008 Feasibility Study follows.
This study has been undertaken by DesignLeeds, the research and practice arm of The Leeds School of Architecture, Landscape and Design on behalf of Kirkstall Valley Park (KVP), a collaborative venture involving many organisations and community partnerships. Alongside Board members particular contributions by Sustrans, Groundwork, BTCV and Leeds Metropolitan University are acknowledged.
Kirkstall Valley Park is a not for profit company with charitable status that aims to establish a new public park in central Leeds. It forms part of the extensive West Leeds Country Park being established by Leeds City Council. Through partnership with local communities, the Council, educational providers and businesses the establishment of KVP will help realise the dreams of many people over the last thirty years in establishing this vital community resource, Kirkstall Valley Park.
The vision for KVP is the creation of a park which will form a Great Green Heart near the centre of Leeds which will help regeneration and provide accessible green space close to thousands of homes. A Great Network: Movement and Circulation is one section of the proposals illustrated above and is essential for the development of KVP. A Great Place covers Landscape and Built Form and A Great Partnership relates to Development and Community Partnerships.
A number of consultation events have taken place and informed the study. Draft proposals for KVP together with models and art work produced by local school children were exhibited at the Kirkstall Festival in July 2007 and a stakeholder workshop was organised in November 2007. These events were very well attended and generated much interest in KVP, confirming the significance of the proposals and the urgent need to implement them.
A Great Network for movement will have a fundamental impact on recreational opportunities, travel to work and on the health and well being of individuals and local communities. The proposal is to establish a great network of routes for walkers, cyclists and other park users. Routes will run east west along the valley, connecting the city with the countryside and provide cross valley connections into the surrounding communities.
The network will comprise major and minor routes which are organised to provide regional and local access as well as paths which connect to features of interest in the park and provide a variety of walks. The system will connect to other forms of transport, bus stops, car parks, railway stations and water bus stops. Irrespective of purpose, movement whether by car, bus, bike or walking should be concerned with experiencing places in an enjoyable and safe manner. Each journey can be unique and respond to the particular qualities and character of the locality and in this way give all year round value.
The network of pedestrian and cycle routes in KVP needs to be carefully designed and managed for commuting and leisure. Routes and connections, which link destinations should be safe, coherent, direct and attractive. They should be distinctive, and relate to the particular landscape that they pass through and they should create opportunities that encourage activity.
THE KIRKSTALL VALLEY
The Kirkstall Valley is one of Leeds’ best kept secrets. Very few people are aware of this substantial area of open space immediately adjacent to the city centre. The valley is sandwiched between Armley, Burley and Kirkstall, but physical barriers created by the Leeds -Skipton railway, the River Aire and the Leeds – Liverpool canal make it difficult to explore this part of the city. People either imagine that there is nothing there, or assume that the land was irretrievably damaged by its previous industrial heritage. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Kirkstall Valley is rich in nature and rich in cultural heritage and deserves to be enjoyed by the public to a much greater extent than is currently the case.
Gotts Park Armley
HISTORY AND LANDSCAPE CHARACTER
Local history can be traced from the foundation of Kirkstall Abbey in 1152. The monks were among the first to use the river. The weirs at Armley Mills and Kirkstall Abbey date from these times, but during the 18th and 19th centuries the valley became a major centre for the woollen industry, and a complex network of weirs and goits was constructed alongside mills, to supply additional energy. Many of these works survive to the present day including Armley, Burley, and St Ann’s Mills within the vicinity of the Park.
Armley Mills -once the world's biggest textile mill is now the home of Leeds Industrial Museum. It was once owned by Leeds Industrialist Benjamin Gott, who also commissioned Humphrey Repton to improve and enlarge a mansion nearby and lay out its extensive parkland. Gott's mansion overlooks the valley and its industrial features and together with the park was acquired by Wade's Charity and leased to Leeds City Council in 1928 in order to establish a public park which now includes a municipal golf course.
The Leeds Liverpool Canal was completed in 1816. In contrast to the River Aire, it has largely unpolluted water drawn from various Pennine catchments. This large body of clean, slow moving water is the home to various rare species of freshwater mollusc that resulted in its designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest in 1984. The canal was once used to supply the power station with coal, and the former coal basin and loading bay have been converted into a narrow boat marina.
Gotts Mansion and Kirkstall Valley ca. 1853
The diverse landscape of the Kirkstall Valley which runs west from the centre of Leeds has a wide range of green spaces combined with a dramatic topography that affords many impressive views. The valley sides accommodate the urban villages of Kirkstall, Armley, Bramley and Burley and major water, rail and road routes run through the valley bottom. A remarkable range of landscape types can be found from woodland and extensive parkland, to small scale walled gardens and sports pitches. The island nature reserve and associated scrub land, contrasts with farmland and the open landscape of small grassy meadows. Open hill sides and incidental stands of trees provide a setting for foot paths, attractive glades and viewing points.
Despite these qualities there are many problems. The site is fragmented and there are barriers to movement. Much of the site is neglected and overgrown and although this can be an asset for wildlife it can feel unsafe and hostile for people. Paths and steps are often uneven and there are dangerous vestiges of previous industrial eras such as unprotected high river banks and rusty railings. Inappropriate signage and other crude details detract from the parkland experience. These aspects combined with a few intrusive developments cast a shadow over the otherwise rich and diverse environment.
A number of distinct character areas can be identified in the valley landscape and include particular features which provide a setting for the park proposals;
Response to the particularities of these areas is a key part of the Great Network. The outline proposals for the park illustrate a wide range of existing and potential destinations and activities that need to be connected in a variety of ways.
Electricity switching station River Aire: Redcote Bridge
The policy context for the development of KVP and the Network underlines the significance of the proposals and covers the following key aspects;
Recognition by Leeds City Council in the 1950’s of the potential of Kirkstall Valley as public open space – commenced land acquisitions.
The inclusion of most of the area as playing fields and public open space in the 1972 Development Plan Review
Proposals for Kirkstall Valley Park in the 1980 Local Plan
Some inappropriate developments but also environmental improvements by Leeds Development Corporation in the 1990’s
2006 Government white paper – Strong and Prosperous Communities – stressing importance of community involvement
2007 The Core Strategy; Leeds Local Development Framework – includes aim of creating a well connected city with sustainable modes of transport
2005-2008 West Leeds District Partnership ‘Strategy for Success’ – identifies as one of its key priorities the development of the Aire Valley and Leeds Liverpool Canal as a green ‘linear link’.
West Leeds Country Park and Green Gateways launched in 2005 is an initiative by Leeds City Council with the intention of protecting, improving and publicising the recreational benefits of green space in West Leeds.
The draft Management Plan aims to secure:
Relevant objectives include:
The Leeds Waterfront Strategy published in 2002 by the Leeds Initiative is approved supplementary planning guidance to the Leeds Unitary Development Plan.
The study area covers 6.5km of the river and canal corridor through Leeds, from Thwaite Mills to Armley Mills. It’s identifies 3 zones, Armely Mills is within the western stretch of zone 1. Although the strategy only covers a small part of Kirkstall Valley Park its vision and aims are very similar:
The vision for the Waterfront Strategy is to 'Add vitality to the waterways and waterfront of Leeds through good planning and design.'
The objectives of the Strategy focus on:
Particular proposals of relevance to this study are:
The National Cycle Network and other Sustrans’ initiatives – Route 66 part of the Aire Valley Towpath Route runs alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal through the park and many initiatives and campaigns such as ‘Safe Routes to Schools’ have a direct bearing on the proposed great network.
The Leeds Climate Change Strategy -Produced by Leeds Initiative the Strategy articulates a Climate Vision for Leeds and identifies as a key objective making walking and cycling more attractive.
ADJACENT COMMUNITIES AND NEW DEVELOPMENTS
The council wards and urban villages adjacent to KVP include Kirkstall, Burley, Bramley, Armley, Wortley, Headingley, Woodhouse, Holbeck and the City Centre covering a significant proportion of inner city and suburban Leeds. Shops, industry and public facilities such as schools exist within these districts together with two Universities and colleges in close proximity.
Some of these neighbouring areas suffer from significant traffic problems, economic disadvantage and a serious shortage of recreational open space. These handicaps are reflected in a wide range of socioeconomic indicators. For example school children in central Leeds face ten times the risk of a serious road accident when compared with their counterparts in the outer suburbs. Inner city children need safer places to play and safer access to schools and play facilities.
An improved network of movement and circulation will help to address a number of these issues and service existing and new developments in an appropriate way. Strong connections with existing and proposed cycle networks and footpaths are important such as links from residences to the universities.
New developments of particular significance to KVP include;
Kirkstall Forge where planning permission has been granted for a development which will accommodate 1385 new homes, in a variety of types sizes and styles as well as 16,518m2 of office space and social facilities. Conservation of the Forge (Grade II listed) is planned which will together with restaurants and a riverside hotel encourage visitors to the area.
The BHS/Alders site; a mixed use development which is in a crucial location relative to KVP and depending on the nature of site planning could enhance or detrimentally affect the character of the park and associated routes.
The refurbishment of Abbey Mills and St Ann's Mills which need to compliment and add to the qualities of KVP in a positive way. Changes to Mills should include orientation towards the park to make the most of increased activity.
Redevelopment of Kirkstall District Centre which will generate more journeys and further traffic congestion which would to an extent be ameliorated by the KVP network. Developments that create pedestrian friendly environments rather than car orientated solutions should be encouraged.
Mixed use developments between Kirkstall Viaduct and Leeds City Centre will have a major impact on KVP and increase the need for an effective network for movement and circulation. New development along the riverside will activate a new linear route and parkway.
THE PROPOSED PARK
The Park stretches from the Kirkstall Viaduct to Kirkstall Forge. It embraces the existing Armley, Gotts and Kirkstall Abbey Parks and overall it is over 200 hectares in extent.
A park in the Kirkstall Valley is not a new idea. Proposals were included in the Leeds City 1980 Local Plan and in a variety of ways attempts have been made to improve the area since that time. It is only recently that a not for profit company with charitable status has been formed with planning and design now taking place under the auspices of the KVP Board of Directors.
The aims of the Park are to:
The value of well designed green spaces as an integral part of urban regeneration is now widely recognized. In virtually every city worldwide initiatives are underway to improve former industrial sites and develop new environments for 21st century living. There are a number of notable examples of places where industrial heritage has provided a key aspect of new parks and where local communities have participated in the development and management of them. Kirkstall Valley Park is well placed to emulate these examples and contribute to sustainable city living.
Kirkstall Festival July 2007
School Projects 2007
Stakeholder Workshop November 2007
Leeds Liverpool Canal Towpath
Kirkstall Valley looking North West
The River Aire
Kirkstall Abbey and Park
Leeds Liverpool Canal: Armley Mills
Gotts Mansion and Repton Landscape
Savins Mill Way
Leeds Liverpool Canal: Marina
Development Plan Policies
Development Plan Policies
Development Plan Policies
Leeds Liverpool Canal
Leeds Liverpool Canal: Marina
Burley and Headingley
St Ann's Mills
Riverside central Leeds
THE PARK PLAN
The plan has been developed to pull together the left over landscapes, isolated spaces and existing parks to create an accessible larger park.
This strategy creates a wider area with an increased number of benefits:
A movement network infiltrates the mosaic of spaces. The network with a hierarchy of routes will:
This new nature park embraces a number of parks, spaces, river, canal, millstreams, cultural destinations and artefacts, for the enjoyment of people. Identifying this mosaic as a Park identifies it's use and value:
There will be economic and strategic development benefits from creating this new park concept that embraces this part of the valley:
A landscape led strategic and detailed approach to planning that harnesses the valley’s natural processes and Park features would create opportunities:
Access for all
Place for activities
Character Areas in the Park
It is essential for landscape management to be part of the proposals and link closely with design:
PROBLEMS AND OPPORTUNITIES
Existing problems and opportunities for walkers and cyclists create a good case for improvement and indicate the nature of changes required.
PLANNING AND DESIGN PRINCIPLES
Connect people to places: The network aims to connect people and the adjacent communities to each other, to the countryside and to the city centre. The routes will improve existing pathways and establish new connections where access has not been possible previously. Through the network access to local places will be improved as well as connections to wider destinations, extending opportunities for walking, cycling and other forms of movement. Connections to bus stops, stations and car parks are key to a successful network.
Protect, enhance and restore: All new routes should aim to protect, enhance and restore the green valley and village/urban characteristics of its locale, with the aim of connecting people with their environment, rather that isolating them. The routes should reflect the varying character of the valley from the urban centre of the city through the leafy suburbs to countryside. They should be sensitive to historic locations, and use suitable materials to reflect that character. Development should follow sustainable urban design principles.
Capitalise on a new sustainable future: The valley has the potential to contribute to and and take advantage of change. Through natural processes, and environmental restoration, the ravages of the industrial past are no longer evident. This post industrial landscape now has the potential to provide the setting for good sustainable community living, informed by good and sensitive design, with opportunities for extending the network. Where feasible sharing of facilities such as car parking should take place to maximise value. The existing dispersed car parking around the edges of KVP should be maintained rather than creating additional large car parks.
Actively manage the environment: The routes will need to be managed: to prevent them being overgrown, to clear graffiti, to repair damage, to restore views, to enable good natural surveillance and to make them safe. For each route there needs to be detailed considerations regarding: surfacing, path widths, lighting, connections, legibility and signage, seating, space for other users (e.g. anglers) associated art and environmental works.
The network addresses the problems and opportunities through establishing a new principal route (The Riverside Way) and a number of contributory routes, which add to the connectivity, and capacity of the system. Local loops also connect spaces and places.
The Riverside Way aims to:
There are 3 other contributory routes:
Towpath (Route 66)
A65 and Goitside
Together these aim to:
Local routes and loops:
These provide additional interest and connections within the park. They connect people to their local environment for leisure and recreation as well as connecting them to the network and wider destinations
Leeds Met student project 2007
KVP stakeholder event November 2007
Poor connections to the canal towpath
New cycle routes Amsterdam Parks
New bridge Bruges
Connecting people to places Bruges
Towpath (route 66)
Click here to see a detailed report on the individual routes.
Implementation will be achieved in a variety of ways but a clear priority is the establishment of The Riverside Way. For this reason an initial estimate of costs for the various sections of this is included below although a more detailed assessment is necessary.
Riverside Way: Kirkstall Forge to Kirkstall Abbey Park 980 m
Widening and new tarmac surface with gritstone surface dressing to existing track
Selective clearance of vegetation and new planting
Riverside Way: Kirkstall Abbey Park to Bridge Road
Removal of derelict elements and poor signage. Repairs to footbridge
Riverside Way: Bridge Road to new Bridge crossing 490m
New bridge, new path
Works to Bridge Road to make pedestrian/cycle friendly excluded
Riverside Way: New bridge to Redcote Lane 920m
New tarmac surface with gritstone surface dressing, along existing track. Some regrading.
Conservation of existing vegetation
Riverside Way: Redcote Lane 450m
Adequate surface exists
Removal of derelict elements/some fencing. New planting and signage
Riverside Way: Redcote Lane to Gotts Park 653m
New link through switching station.New surface to route through Gotts Park.
Canal bridge improvements
Riverside Way: Redcote Lane to Vue and Armley Mills 600m
New links alongside River depend on new development
Painting bridge. New signage
Riverside Way: Vue to Railway Viaduct 426m
New Links alongside River depend on new development
Landscape design proposals within developments
Riverside Way: Canal Road to City Centre 2219m
New Links alongside River depend on new development
Landscape design proposals within developments
THE WAY FORWARD
Plans for movement and circulation must be linked to the overall development of Kirkstall Valley Park. To successfully implement the vision for a Green Heart and a Great Network there will need to be a sustained level of consciousness about the significance of these proposals. Parks and routes through them are a vital resource for the health and well being of people and their communities.
The project will need to be funded from a variety of sources associated with new developments and a wide range of initiatives.
The Riverside Way is of particular importance and its establishment will act as a catalyst for the establishment of the broader network. It will provide for and encourage access into the park and to other destinations such as the city centre. In this way the necessary shift from using cars to other greener forms of transport, including cycling and walking, will be assisted.
POTENTIAL FUNDING SOURCES
Only small amounts of funding have been raised to date but potential key funders include:
English Heritage, Yorkshire Forward, Leeds City Council, Development Projects (Directly and through Section 106 agreements), Natural England, Leeds Initiative, Creative partnerships, Local Enterprise.
DesignLeeds Project Team: Fleure Gething, Luke Mitchell, Emma Oldroyd, Chris Royffe, Debbie Samuel.
The following post graduate landscape architecture and urban design students at Leeds Met have also contributed to various events and to design proposals for the park: Elias Arkin, Christopher Dixon, Kate Dundas, Soudeh Hekmat, Ying Lui, Jessie Kennedy, Joo Youn Kim, Carol Mather, Sarah Leeson, Nicholas Miller, Matt Nokes, Davey Northcott, Deborah Oakley, Stuart Prendergast, Lucas Shellhammer, Hannah Solomansson, Timothy Spain, Katie Spencer, Sally Stephenson, Philipp von Welck, Lasse Flies, Stephen Wilkinson
Park entrance and art work
Park life in Amsterdam
HTML by John Illingworth