Come on, own up – who put the motorway there?

The motorway underpass in Holbeck

Once upon a time, some forty-odd years ago, there was an expanse of housing to the south of Leeds. Mostly built to expand existing villages from 1905 onwards, this area looked little different to many others across and around the city, writes Alison Neale.

Back then, town planners worked under The Jetsons model of futurist thought whereby we’d all be zipping around in flying cars between our idyllic suburban villas (with robot dog/butler) and vast shopping malls in the sky… Petrol prices in those days, of course, were a little over 30p per gallon, but even with the car as king, fast forward to 2012 and every time I walk into town I stare up at the M621 overhead and wonder what complete nincompoop thought that it was ever a good idea to slice Leeds in two.

The obvious problem, as I see it (and correct me if I’m mistaken), is that any area with a large number of council- or housing association-owned houses is likely to have fewer cars than average, and without a car the inner southern areas of the city, at least, are cut off.

It is one thing to walk through the underpass by Holbeck Moor Park during the day, but the area becomes a problem spot for anti-social behaviour later into the evening, while east towards Dewsbury Road the crossing point is a dilapidated footbridge… via a park path… via a snicket: again, not exactly comforting after dark, however safe it might actually be.

A frequent user of the subway near Holbeck Moor Park, what with streets of closed-up houses to the south of the motorway and a semi-deserted industrial estate to the north of it, I’m not surprised that people look at me oddly when I say I walk into town rather than take a bus, taxi or car.

It’s not exactly a picture postcard stroll in; but I’m a pedestrian. I’ve always loved walking and I see so much potential for an excellent cycle route (completely off the main roads) right into town, or a prettier walking route in, with benches, containers of flowers and trees.

There have been some amazing wildflower displays created around Holbeck, for example, helping to boost the endangered bee population. However, with not one litter bin between Granary Wharf and the bottom of Beeston Road, it is simply a rubbish-strewn dog lavatory of a path.

So my question to those, like me, left high and dry on and around Beeston Hill (and hey, looking on the bright side, if the rain continues we’re in a good spot to stay dry) is this: do you use the walking routes to town? What do you think of them and how could they be improved?