Knaresborough’s long-held dream of building a cliff lift to link the Waterside below to the castle above high has come a step closer.
What would be a complex and expensive feat of engineering has been mooted several times before but has always become bogged down in costs and complications.
Now determined volunteers at community group Renaissance Knaresborough are confident the latest bid to help the disabled and transform the town’s tourism sector will get off the ground this time.
If successful after the last failed attempt in 2005, supporters of the new project believe it could turn into the “London Eye of Yorkshire.”
Shan Oakes, chair of Renaissance Knaresborough, said: “First and foremost the cliff lift will be an invaluable means of access, supporting those with disability and mobility issues, but it will also serve to enhance the Knaresborough experience for all. But it’s also crucial for boosting the town’s attractiveness.
“Knaresborough’s topography presents a serious challenge for the local economy because the Waterside and town centre economies are essentially isolated.
“The proposed cliff lift has the potential to link the town’s key features, attractions and retail at the Market Place and castle, improving both experiences and boosting the town economy.”
The new project has already been welcomed by the head of Disability Action Yorkshire. Chief executive Jackie Snapes said: “We are so pleased that Renaissance Knaresborough are pushing forwards with this important project.
“Equality of accessibility for disabled people is such a major part of making our district inclusive for everyone, residents and visitors.
“Like many historic towns, Knaresborough has its challenges as regards the physical environment but we know that it is an extremely welcoming place for disabled people in general.
“The ‘cliff lift’ would serve to enhance the attractiveness of this already amazing town and we fully support the current project.”
Progress achieved so far at the behest of Renaissance Knaresborough includes a First Point Surveys to conduct a topographical study on an area adjacent to the Castle grounds which has been partly supported by Knaresborough Town Council.
A non-invasive geotechnical study is also likely to commence in the next few weeks to look at the potential visual impact of a new cliff lift.
Supporters of the project point to other places like Saltburn, which has a a funicular railway down to the beach, and Scarborough, which has two ‘cliff railways’ open to the public, and say there is a crying need for a similar in Knaresborough.
But they acknowledge the need for any construction to be sympathetic to both residents, the general view and the existing cliff walk itself with its steep steps.
Fundmentally, for the project to succeed, it must be shown to work financially in a sustainable manner for the benefit of the whole town, not only in the short run but in the long term.
Shan Oakes of Renaissance Knaresborough said: “This type of project isn’t going to happen overnight.
“There is a significant amount of work to be done with numerous consultations ahead.
“A strong commercial case will be needed to draw investment, but for the scheme to be successful it must be beautiful as well as useful.
“It needs to have a sympathetic design for local residents as well as enhancing the important heritage asset it serves.”
The issue is expected to be discussed in public at Renaissance Knaresborough’s annual general meeting on Tuesday, June 26.
If anyone would like to help the cliff lift project in any way, they are being encouraged to express their interest to Shan Oakes on 01423 549376.