WHAT NEXT FOR THE VIADUCT?

The Bennerley Viaduct project, which has caught the imagination of the communities of the Erewash Valley over the last couple of years, will not be going ahead as planned.

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A bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund by Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, was very close to success in December, coming equal fourth out of 17 projects being considered. Heritage Lottery Fund was impressed by the project, and encouraged Sustrans to resubmit with some revisions, but a decision was taken at executive level not to do so.

Sustrans gave financial risk and changing priorities as reasons for the decision. Heritage Lottery Fund projects always require “match funding” to be put in by the bidder, but Sustrans now feel that raising the amount asked for is unlikely. They also claim that the project does not fit in with their overall strategy or their plans for the National Cycle Network.

The “Iron Giant” belongs to Railway Paths Ltd., a charity set up in the 1990s to take over some of the assets of British Rail, such as disused bridges and lines. Sustrans designs and manages projects to bring them back into public use. The two organisations have stated that they have not abandoned the viaduct and still want to find a viable project to guarantee its future.

The Friends’ committee attended a meeting in Nottingham with the chairs and CEO’s of both Sustrans and RPL on 15 February. The Friends put forward the idea of a new partnership to explore other funding sources, allowing the original project, with any necessary improvements, to be submitted to HLF. Sustrans and RPL agreed to come forward with alternative schemes requiring less funding, and all options will be on the table for discussion at a further meeting in mid-March. Any new project partnership will be led by RPL.

Local MPs Maggie Throup (Erewash) and Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) have always supported the project and have offered to help keep it alive by bringing together existing and potential new partners.

“We know that Ilkeston people and others in the Erewash valley will be as disappointed as we were by this news,” Jeff Wynch told Ilkeston Life. “The bid would not have done nearly as well as it did without the massive community engagement that HLF always look for. We are determined that it should not be wasted and that there will still be a project that we can all get behind in the near future”.

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