the former mining town of castleford in yorkshire has something to
boast about. a new pedestrian
bridge has been built connecting residents of the north and south part of town. the bridge design
was collaborated by mcdowell + bendetti, alan baxter associates, arup and constructed by costain.
public space was incorporated into the design, from the bridge residents can view local landmarks
and take a seat on one of the benches. the deck is made from timber and lighting has been installed
under the rails. the bridge has been designed in an 's' shape and stretches 8km.From The Times
August 2, 2008
Kevin McCloud’s big town plan for Castleford
Kevin McCloud’s latest grand design is to inject new life into the town of Castleford. Our correspondents assesses the results
We thought ’old on, they’ll come with their TV cameras and MDF messing the place up. Well no, you’re not, and that’s that.” Rheta Davison wasn’t, at first, looking forward to the arrival of Kevin McCloud. Reality TV hasn’t had the best press, so when Channel 4 and Talkback, the makers of McCloud’s hit TV series Grand Designs, turned up in 2003 to film the regeneration of Davison’s home town of Castleford, West Yorkshire, a run-down former coal-mining town, you could forgive locals for being a tad sceptical.
Davison, a no-nonsense, call-a-spade-a-spade lady of the kind only Yorkshire produces, has lived here all her life. She now runs her estate’s community group. “You’ve got to remember Cas has been promised things time and again,” she explains. “We’ve all been through times. My husband was made redundant, which is why we ended up here [on the council estate] with four kids to bring up. The place is full of scars, bad scars an’ all. We all just thought they’d do some cheap makeover, make us northerners out to be idiots and disappear and that would be that.”
How wrong she was. This was no instant makeover. “The Castleford Project” became a joke in TV circles. Heard the one about the channel that thought it could film eight building projects from scratch in, er, two years? Have they never watched Grand Designs?
“I think I was the only one to say, you know it takes two years just to design and build a house,” says McCloud. “And you want to regenerate a town? Mad, just mad. TV people think that if they say two years real life will just fit in.”
Five years on, though, and the project is not only finished but ready for broadcast. The idea is simple, says McCloud: “Can design save a failing town?” Talkback “interviewed” many contenders left behind by Britain’s so-called urban renaissance, but selected Castleford for its community spirit. The town may have above-average stats for teenage pregnancy and below-average ones for educational attainment, but, says McCloud “the locals really had drive”.
“There is a version of events that nothing was happening here till Channel 4 turned up with their magic dust,” says Wakefield Council’s leader, Peter Box, “but that’s nonsense.” Two decades on, Glasshoughton colliery has been replaced by the giant Xscape indoor dry ski slope, employing more people than the pit – many of them new arrivals, mind you – and surrounded by retail sheds, a multiplex, a new Asda and rising new suburban homes. At the junction of the M62 and M1, Castleford is rebranding itself as a commuter ’burb for émigrés from Leeds. But its existing residents weren’t without ideas either.
All Davison and her community group wanted was a play area. “Children have a right to be heard in a community,” she says. “They’re no less clever here than anywhere else. It’s just that they’ve got no aspirations. They’re born into families with no jobs.” Talkback selected Cutsyke’s “playforest”, and seven other projects, large and small: a new underpass to the town centre replacing a grotty alley beneath the railway; a new “village green” in the former pit village of New Fryston; a newly landscaped market area; a new town centre gallery; a new pedestrian bridge across the Aire, and improvements such as new bollards and traffic calming around Wilson Street. These were partnered with eight teams of designers, with all decisions to be made by the locals and community champions, and let the cameras roll.
Five years later, the physical results are impressive. Talkback attracted serious talent. On the steering committees are leading lights such as Roger Zogolovitch, one of Britain’s most influential, design-led developers, and Peter Rogers, brother of Richard and the founding CEO of developers Stanhope. Architects included rising stars such as DSDHA and Hudson Architects, plus international luminaries including Martha Schwartz.
Schwartz’s new village green gleams – even if its avant-garde angles and artfully rusted bollards by Antony Gormley seem grandiose for the edge of town. Renato Benedetti’s £4.8 million footbridge is an astonishing tour de force, its steel, serpentine curves daintily tiptoeing across the torrent of the Aire. Locals swarm across day and night, says its community champion, Wendy Rayner. “When you get to the middle of the bridge, you’re not in Castleford, you are somewhere else. You meet your friends. They’ve started having picnics on it. Nobody ever had picnics here before. We’ve got kingfishers, cormorants, mallard ducks and water-hens. They’re pulling pike out the river. It’s a living museum. Kids his age,” she nods to her grandson, Thomas, “they don’t even know what a lump of coal is.”
The smaller projects are just as influential. The new underpass beneath Tickle Cott Bridge cost only a couple of hundred thousand pounds, but for that, DSDHA delivered a piece of sophisticated concrete geometry, which, says the architect Deborah Saunt, “is about cheering up those spots planning usually forgets about”. And the impact on all participants is palpable. But there are, of course, naysayers. As I gawp at Benedetti’s bridge, a man comes up and literally spits on it – “Bloody waste of money” – before hurtling off. “Ah, you always get ’em. Bloody moaners,” Davison says. “Don’t put the effort in. Where would you rather the money went? Wakefield?”