Major plans to re-open historic Bennerley Viaduct as a public walkway are set to take a huge step forward

Major plans to re-open historic Bennerley Viaduct as a public walkway are set to take a huge step forward
Major plans to re-open historic Bennerley Viaduct as a public walkway are set to take a huge step forward

Plans to reopen one of England’s last remaining wrought-iron viaducts as a public walkway are set to be approved by Erewash Borough Council.

The application intends to bring the Grade-II* listed Bennerley Viaduct, near Ilkeston, back into use.

It was built in 1877 and straddles the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire border.

However, it has been derelict for more than half a century, is in need of urgent repairs and has been hit by vandalism.

Plans from Railway Paths Ltd (RPL) and the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct (FoBV) intend to reopen the landmark by the end of 2020 -at a cost of nearly half a million pounds.

If approved by both Erewash Borough Council and Broxtowe Borough Council, the plans would see a new timber decking installed, along with a staggered ramp on the western (Ilkeston) side of the viaduct.

As a temporary measure, the eastern side would be opened for public access by steps – with future plans to install another ramp.

These additions would connect the viaduct to existing public footpaths, the Erewash Canal and the former Nottingham Canal.

Erewash Borough Council has been recommended to approve the plans at a meeting on Wednesday, July 24.

A report submitted with the application by RPL says that the scheme intends to “ensure the viaduct’s long-term survival”.

It says: “Bringing the viaduct into use for public access will give this valuable heritage asset a more certain future as doing so will attract resources for its ongoing upkeep and conservation.

“Furthermore, creating new public access links across the Erewash Valley will connect up existing trails and public rights of way and improve opportunities for active recreation and enjoyment.”

A ground-level path would also be formed underneath the viaduct.

A gently sloping 200-metre ramp would be built on the western side of the viaduct through existing woodland. It is intended to open up the viaduct to cyclists, wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs and prams.

Bennerley Viaduct formerly carried the Great Northern Railway’s Derby to Nottingham line over the Erewash Valley to the east of Ilkeston.

It measures around 400 metres in length and is 18 metres high.

The viaduct was designed by the GNR’s resident engineers, Samuel Abbott and Richard Johnson.

It was built in 1877 by Benton and Woodiwiss with wrought-iron components produced by Eastwood and Swingler of Derby.

It has been vacant since 1968.

Historic England says that the structure “appears” to have only escaped demolition due to the difficulty in dismantling it.

It says that the structure represents “heritage at risk”.

A report in the application says that the structure was saved from demolition by the Friends of Bennerley Viaduct group and a public inquiry in 1980.

It says: “Because the viaduct is isolated and in a disused state it attracts anti-social behaviour including vandalism and as a result negative perceptions of the site have developed. “

The report says that the scheme would benefit the communities of Cotmanhay and Awsworth in particular, along with Ilkeston as a whole and Eastwood.

It says: “The development will enable people to experience Bennerley Viaduct’s heritage in an entirely different and positive way.

“Perceptions of the viaduct as a rusting eyesore and focus of anti-social behaviour will be transformed into perceptions of it being a purposeful landmark structure that the community can fully access and be proud of.

“People will be attracted to visit, use and enjoy the area they once avoided.”

The viaduct is one of only two surviving wrought-iron viaducts in England, the other being the Meldon Viaduct in Devon.

Erewash planners, recommending approval, wrote: “There will be an impact on the listed structure but the impact is limited and the detail has been carefully considered and balanced against the significant public benefits such that the proposal is considered acceptable.”

Eddie Bisknell , Local Democracy Reporting Service