Work to reopen Derbyshire's 'Eiffel Tower' could be complete by autumn

Works to turn Ilkeston’s “Eiffel Tower” into a public walkway and cycleway could be complete by autumn, with a new ramp access set for completion in May.

By Eddie Bisknell
Thursday, 29th April 2021, 5:44 pm
Work on a ramp to Bennerley Viaduct
Work on a ramp to Bennerley Viaduct

The project to reopen Bennerley Viaduct, near Ilkeston, started more than a year ago and its completion is now set to come more than 50 years after Bennerley Viaduct closed.

It stretches over the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire border, on the edge of Cotmanhay, and was first opened in 1877.

It is the only UK location on the 2020 World Monuments Watch, joining the likes of Notre Dame and Easter Island.

The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct group has been campaigning for years to see the structure repaired and reopened and has raised thousands of pounds and spent countless hours clearing the site, including the whole area underneath the viaduct.

Kieran Lee, community engagement lead for the group, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that works to build a ramp up to the viaduct, on the Derbyshire side, close to the canal, should be complete in May.

Meanwhile, decking will begin to be laid on top of the viaduct, to convert it into a public walkway, in the summer and that work – which will finish the whole project – is due for completion in the autumn.

Mr Lee said: “There is a feeling of optimism in the air.

“The Covid restrictions are gradually being lifted, shops and pubs are re-opening. It feels like we are back on the road to a more normal way of living.

“The optimism also comes from the progress which is being made with the Bennerley Project.

“We are currently on schedule for an autumn reopening – fingers crossed. The western ramp nears completion and work on the deck will commence in the summer.

“Our volunteer workdays will also be re-commencing shortly.

“The success of the project stems from the way so many people, groups, owners, funders, councils, colleagues in the FoBV and statutory bodies are all pulling in the same direction.

“We thank you for your support in helping to drive this project forward. We would not have been in the position we are today without such outstanding support.”

This comes nearly two years after the plans – put forward by Railway Paths Ltd – were granted approval by Erewash Borough Council, at a planning meeting in which councillors dubbed the structure “Cotmanhay’s Eiffel Tower”.

It is Grade-II* listed is one of only two surviving wrought-iron viaducts in England, the other being the Meldon Viaduct in Devon. Its wrought-iron components were produced by Eastwood and Swingler of Derby.

The 200-metre ramp zig-zags up a sharp slope near the Erewash Canal to create access for cyclists, wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs and prams.

The eastern side of the viaduct would have steps installed for now, until the budget can be found for a similar ramp.

Marine plywood decking would be laid on top of the current exposed iron beams to form the public walkway allowing people to reuse the viaduct for a new purpose.