Castleford Bridge

The challenge

The legacy left behind by the decline of the UK’s once thriving coal industry has impacted heavily on the region’s former mining towns, none more so than in Castleford. With a population of around 40,000 people, the town has always struggled to cope with the economic and environmental fallout of this collapsed industry. Years of limited inward investment and the demise of Castleford’s vital retail sector, primarily due to the rise of out-of-town shopping, meant that urgent public sector assistance to rejuvenate the area was more crucial than ever. 

The solution

Yorkshire Forward identified Castleford as one of five Wakefield towns to benefit from its highly successful ‘Urban Renaissance Towns Programme’, which is designed to revive communities and make them a place where people want to invest, work and live.

One of the objectives of the Urban Renaissance Programme, was to devise and implement a series of long-term regeneration initiatives for Castleford. Co-funded by Yorkshire Forward and its partners, such as Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, the Homes and Communities Agency (formerly English Partnerships) , the programme also relied heavily on the support and effort of local people and key stakeholders.

The first piece in the jigsaw for this ambitious project was to devise a 25 year renaissance vision for Castleford. This would primarily establish how the town would be improved and what plans would need to be put in place to shape the future of Castleford’s economy and local landscape in the long term. 

Approximately 10 individual regeneration projects have since been undertaken within Castleford, to improve every aspect of the town and ensure that achieving this long term renaissance vision is one step closer.  

The outcome

The jewel in the crown for Yorkshire Forward’s Urban Renaissance Programme in Castleford was the construction of a landmark, award-winning, pedestrian bridge that  links the town’s waterfront on the south bank of the river Aire to the Millennium community of Allerton Bywater. 

The eye-catching landmark boasts an iconic structure that has transformed a forgotten waterfront that was once described as a cauldron of industrial pollution and toxic foam.

As well as being an architectural masterpiece, Castleford Bridge provides a picturesque public space for the local community to enjoy and provides an economic hub for the riverside area which continues to expand.

A key component in the project’s success has been the vital role played by local Castleford residents. Yorkshire Forward knew that achieving its vision would only be possible through ongoing public consultation and by harnessing local people’s passion and enthusiasm for their town. Castleford Bridge has won many awards including the high profile 2009 RIBA CABE Public Space Award.

Alison Drake and Wendy Rayner from Castleford are both community champions who dedicated their time and effort to helping make the project happen.

Alison, commented: “The new Castleford Bridge has meant so much to us as a community. It’s hard to express the joy and pride we feel in helping bring beautiful architecture to the town and giving local people access to a wonderful amenity”. 

“No longer will Castleford be looked upon as a dirty industrial town, as we now have lots of visitors who come just to see the bridge and stay to enjoy the market and the friendliness of local people”

“The bridge has won many national awards, being recognised not only for good design and construction but also for the work that local people put into the project”.
 
“To be on the bridge and hear the rush of water over the weir, see fish leaping up the new fish-ladder, enjoy the wildlife and sit gazing at the lovely view right in the middle of town is just amazing. We know what urban renaissance means in Castleford - it means a better quality of life for all of us and for future generations in our town.”

Wendy, added: “The bridge has put Castleford on the map, receiving visitors from across the UK and as far afield as Australia, France, Denmark and Ireland. It is well designed – a lovely piece of engineering.”

Community support was also buoyed by the efforts of the local council. Cllr Peter Box, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: "The profile of Castleford is on the up and the bridge has become an icon - not just within the community but across the country.

"The country is now waking up to what we are achieving in our district and I am proud to see the bridge recognised by so many people. It is already acting as a catalyst for growth and community spirit and long may it continue being.”

Having won many accolades, including the 2009 Royal Institute of British Architects Award, Castleford Bridge has also recently been shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Award to be announced in October 2009.

Despite the award success and economic benefits to local businesses, the biggest winner of all will always be the town’s local community who have witnessed a rundown riverside area transform into a vibrant, thriving landmark to be enjoyed by all.

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