Green light for new visitor facilities at iconic Bennerley Viaduct

How the new visitor centre will look

Harworth Group has been given the go-ahead by Broxtowe Borough Council for a new visitor centre and access embankment at the Bennerley Viaduct, on the border of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

As the owner of the wider 142-acre site, Harworth has worked closely with The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct and other partners to bring forward the plans, and will now gift a land parcel to the organisation to allow construction to start.

The Grade II* listed Bennerley Viaduct is an iconic landmark standing 20 metres high above the valley of the River Erewash. Known as “The Iron Giant of the Erewash Valley”, it was built between 1877 and 1878 by the Great Northern Railway, and is the longest Victorian wrought iron viaduct in the UK – and one of only two still standing. It has been described by the World Monuments Fund as “an extraordinary monument” and by Historic England as “a stunning example of the genius of British Engineering.”

The site was for many years used as a coal disposal point, with the viaduct eventually closed to trains in 1968. Since then, the structure has found a new lease of life in the care of The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct. In 2022, it was re-opened to walkers, cyclists and heritage explorers, with the western side of the viaduct fully accessible but the eastern side accessible only by steps. The approved plans would allow for the construction of a new embankment on the eastern side, providing much improved access, alongside a new visitor centre that will include educational facilities, a shop, toilets and outside seating area, alongside visitor parking.

Harworth has worked for several years with The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, Broxtowe Borough Council and the local community to secure funding, create the masterplan and appoint a team to deliver the works at the viaduct. Earlier this year, the council was awarded £16.5m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, which will be used in part to fund the works. Harworth will also gift 3.6 acres of land to allow construction to begin and to connect the new facilities to existing pedestrian and cycle routes. It is anticipated that work will start in spring 2024 and be completed later that year.

Stuart Ashton, head of planning at Harworth, said: “Bennerley Viaduct is a key part of the industrial heritage of the East Midlands, and a source of great pride for local residents. I’m delighted that Harworth has played its role, alongside The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, Broxtowe Council and other partners, in revitalising this 150-year old feat of engineering and ensuring it can be enjoyed by a new generation.”

John Scruton, chair of The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct, added: “The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are thrilled by this positive planning decision, marking a significant milestone in the site’s development. We extend heartfelt thanks to Harworth for their invaluable support and generosity, without which this achievement wouldn’t have been possible. We eagerly anticipate our continued partnership with Harworth and our other collaborators, Broxtowe Borough Council, and our dedicated consultants and contractors. Together we will continue to transform our ambitious plans into reality.”