Complied & written by Jonathan Rudd
There have been many Yorkshire innovations and ideas, which have taken off and been to the benefit of folk in the county. Not all of these ever get off the ground, but had some of these failed projects actually happened, Yorkshire could have been a very different place indeed!
1. The Leeds “Supertram”
The last trams in Leeds ran in 1959 and there is still plenty of physical evidence and pictures of what used to be. In the mid-1990s an idea was mooted to bring them back- just like down t’road in Sheffield. An application to the then Conservative government resulted in rejection. A change at Westminster saw these plans and funding approved by the new administration in 2002. Work was set to commence in 2004 with the new supertram system ferrying its first passengers three years later. The proposals included three lines running from the City Centre to Stourton, Weetwood and Whinmoor respectively, even with a view to expansion into Bradford..eventually.. Preparatory work was done near Hunslet, City Square and on the A61 in 2003; the stage was set for work to begin in earnest the following year. Unfortunately costs had already spiralled to nearly £1bn. The government were beginning to get cold feet on the project and new Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling withdrew Government funding for the project in 2005. A revised, cost-cutting plan was submitted but rejected and so it was left to Leeds Council to wind up the project. Controversially the whole supertram idea cost £40m to the taxpayer. Further attempts to implement a new public transport system in the city have been met with scepticism ever since.
2. Ravenscar – The Victorian seaside resort that never was
High on the cliffs between Scarborough and Whitby lays the tiny village of Ravenscar. During the summer in the Victorian Times, the newly built railway networks took carriage loads of holidaymakers to the East Coast from the region’s industrial towns and cities. This annual movement saw the creation of new Yorkshire resorts, such as Withernsea, Hornsea and Saltburn, along with the larger, more established ones such as Bridlington and Scarborough.
Plans were made by an ambitious group of entrepreneurs called the Peak Estate Company, to build a brand new town with shops, guesthouses, gardens attractions. Roads were planned and sewers dug to lay the foundations for the project. In 1884 a new railway line and station were opened. Unfortunately the rest of these grand plans never came to fruition. Firstly there was a problem with getting the train tracks to the top of the steep cliffs. Secondly there was no proper sandy beach and a very steep drop in order to access it. Finally, the location of Ravenscar, on top of bare cliffs meant that it was at the mercy of the elements and proved an unpopular destination for a holiday. With very little footfall one by one investors pulled out and left the village with a scattering of buildings and a disused railway, much of which are still visible today.
3. Lakewoods – A new holiday village in the heart of East Yorkshire
In 1991 a proposal was made to build a new holiday village on arable land at South Cliffe, just outside Market Weighton in East Yorkshire. The grand plans included a full “Center Parcs” style resort complete with forest park and outdoor activities. After initial consultation with several surrounding local authorities, including the then Humberside County Council, the feedback was encouraging. Plans were drawn up and a public exhibition of the new holiday park was held in Market Weighton to much public response. However, there was local opposition to the plan, which led to Beverley Borough Council opposing it, mainly due to environmental concerns and accessibility issues. The holiday park was never built.
4. A new stadium for Leeds United
In the heady days of the Peter Ridsdale era at Leeds United proposals were put in place to move the football club, Billy Bremner statue and all, to an out of town location at Skelton, near Junction 45 of the A1. The £40m project would have seen fans marching on together to a 50,000 capacity stadium, complete with tram, train and road access. Manager, David O’Leary was quoted at the time saying the club had to make this move in order to compete with the other top clubs. The new stadium was due to open in time for the 2004-05 season, when Leeds would be (of course) playing in the Champions League for the squillionth year in a row and be the biggest club in Europe…… Then the taxman called and the rest as they say is history…….
5. Converting Barnsley into a “Tuscan hill town”
In 2002, architect, Will Alsop was a man with a plan. His vision was to make the former mining town of Barnsley into a “Tuscan Hill town.” Despite the South Yorkshire climate and the unfortunate day they chose to announce the project- April Fool’s Day, the plans were genuine. Included in the proposals were to build a wall around the entire town (with gaps for roads of course), upgrading the market- Italian style and beaming a light from the town hall for a radius of 2/3 miles. None of these ever happened and by 2005 Alsop’s Italian job had come to a halt, mainly because of the withdrawal of major investors. Some regeneration projects in Barnsley have been completed since, but Alsop’s Italian dreams were never turned into reality.