I have for a while been interested in the development of the Meltham Greenway. In this post I intend to try to pull together information from various sources to look at the current status of the project.
For those not familiar with the Meltham Greenway, the long term aim of the project is to create a cycle route linking Huddersfield with the small town of Meltham, about four and a half miles to the south-west. Until 1965, Meltham was connected to the national rail network at Lockwood by a 3.5 mile branch line.
The most obvious route for any cycle track linking Meltham and Huddersfield would of course be to use the disused track bed of the old railway line. Inevitably though, things aren’t that simple and there are a number of challenges for the project. These include two tunnels, Butternab at 234m and Netherton at 304m, and issues relating to the ownership of the land along the intended route.
Tunnels are not an unusual obstacle to the conversion of disused railway lines to cycle routes however not all tunnels will be suitable to be opened up for use by cyclists. In the case of Butternab tunnel, the southern entrance to the tunnel is in the back garden of a house on Butternab Ridge. Immediately then, when the tunnels become a problem, alternative routes have to be found which in this area mean negotiating more hills and so the appeal of the route may be compromised.
In January 2008, planning permission (app ref 2007/48/94949/W3) was granted for the construction of the first 1km section from The Cobbles near Morrisons in Meltham to Huddersfield Road. The section opened in mid 2008 at a cost of £250,000
The Friends of Meltham Greenway group, which is chaired by Cllr Terry Lyons, was formed in 2008 with the aim of enhancing the path. They have been involved in the provision of information boards, bins, seating, and litter picking and planting.
In January of this year Kirklees confirmed to me that they do “have long term plans to extend the Meltham Greenway to Huddersfield but we don’t know when”. The Kirklees Capital Investment Plan for 2010/11 to 2015/16 which was approved in February allocated £246k to the project and included an estimate of 2019/2020 for its completion at a total cost of £1.21m. This estimate does look rather low in light of the cost of the first section. However, a revised Capital Investment Plan was approved at a Council meeting in June which now allocates no money to the project.
Earlier this year, I made a Freedom of Information request to the council for a copy of a feasibility study which the Examiner reported in 2004 Kirklees had commissioned. This came in two parts, an “options report” which details various options for the route, and a “conclusion report” which provides an assessment of those options. Both were provided in hard copy with the majority of the conclusions report being at A4 size whilst the options report is A3 and larger in some cases. For the benefit of others who may be interested in this, I’ve scanned the conclusion report and you can find links below. Unfortunately it isn’t really practical for me to scan the options report due to its size.
- Conclusions Report (16.1MB)
- Conclusions Report – Appendix A – Location Plan (2.9MB)
- Conclusions Report – Appendix B – Gradients (8.0MB)
- Conclusions Report – Appendix C – Estimated Costs (2.9MB)
Other Freedom of Information requests I have made reveal that Netherton Tunnel is owned by BRB (Residuary) Ltd, who are responsible for structures associated with closed railway lines, whilst Butternab Tunnel is owned by three parties. BRB (Residuary) Ltd own a portion of the middle of the tunnel, Kirklees Council own the northerly section including the northern portal, and the southern section will be owned by the resident of the house adjacent to the southern portal.
Things were looking bleak for the project until, whilst I was drafting this post, I spotted a post by Cllr David Woodhead which provides an interesting update. Cllr Woodhead reports that a meeting between the Friends of Meltham Greenway, Kirklees Council, and Sustrans has taken place and it seems that Sustrans may have funds available. He says that discussions will take place to sort out some of the landownership issues. Hopefully then we may say some progress being made in the not too distant future.