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Bradford urges Shapps to save historic tunnel

Words: Huw Morris

The leader of Bradford Council has asked transport secretary Grant Shapps to intervene urgently in what she says are ‘unauthorised actions’ by Highways England at a historic tunnel.

The council believes that the Department for Transport (DfT) may have breached planning rules and has sent an engineer to the disused Queensbury Tunnel to make an emergency assessment of its condition.

Susan Hinchcliffe has asked Grant Shapps for an immediate halt to attempts to fill and seal a shaft at the 2.3km Victorian tunnel and for an independent third-party evaluation to assess its condition and use of emergency powers. 

She is also demanding that Highways England should withdraw a planning application to seal other shafts at the tunnel and that DfT representatives visit the site.

Highways England’s contractor moved on to the historic site and began filling in one of its air shafts last week. Bradford sent an urgent hand-delivered letter to Highways England saying the correct planning process had not been followed. It sent a second letter demanding an immediate halt to works.

The council said infilling the air shaft is believed to make reopening of the tunnel considerably more challenging and expensive. The current planning application from Highways England to fill and seal the tunnel has received more than 4,000 objections and is one of the most commented on applications Bradford has ever processed.

The Queensbury Tunnel opened in 1878 and features on the Victorian Society’s list of the top 10 most endangered buildings. In February, the council backed moves to reopen Queensbury as part of a cycle route linking Bradford to Halifax, potentially Europe’s longest underground cycleway.

Hinchcliffe said this is a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to save a unique asset of Victorian industrial heritage and restore it as part of a nationally recognised cycleway that will become a visitor attraction in its own right.

“The actions of Highways England, which have happened without warning, have put the whole project in jeopardy,” she added. “We need them to halt all the works and withdraw the planning application to seal the tunnel.”

Image credit | Philld-geograph