Marshalls help to make Cookridge Street public realm accessible to all

Marshalls Landscape Protection, part of hard landscaping manufacturer Marshalls Group, has designed, developed and produced a bespoke, accessible seating installation as part of a project to rejuvenate a public space in Cookridge Street, Leeds city centre.

The development, which began in October 2020 and concluded in April 2021, set out to transform Cookridge Street from a heavily trafficked road to a communal pedestrianised space. The ambition of the project, as part of the Connecting Leeds scheme, was to increase public space within the city centre – with a particular emphasis on making the area more inclusive for those with accessibility issues.

Marshalls Landscape Protection was approached by John Sisk & Son, the contractors delivering the project, to build upon an original concept and develop it further. Additionally, Marshalls Landscape Protection was tasked with producing two bespoke retaining walls that incorporate integral seating within the design.

Marshalls Specification Development Manager, Dominic Renney, discussed the process:

“In collaboration with all parties involved, we put together a design and function criteria for the bespoke retaining walls. With a great understanding of the brief, we created a concept that used Portuguese Carina granite and FSC®-certified Iroko timber. Both materials are exceptionally hard-wearing and will serve the city for many years to come.”

Prior to its development, Cookridge Street consisted of narrow footpaths located beside a busy road, making it difficult for people with mobility issues to navigate safely. Therefore, a core ambition for the project was to improve this and ensure that the new space could be enjoyed by all. Explaining how Marshalls helped in this respect, Dominic continued:

“Accessibility was a major component to the brief, so we designed the walls to be at a height that made it easier for wheelchair users to move between their chair and the seating.”

In addition to improving accessibility, introducing a new green space to the public realm was a key driver for the project. The areas within the retaining walls have been utilised for this purpose, with turf, trees and foliage being planted. Not only has this benefited the aesthetics of the city centre, it has also helped to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the project, an aim shared by all parties involved.

With work on the project commencing during an exceptionally challenging year for the industry, Sisk expressed initial concerns that disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic could prove detrimental to the project. The construction sector, as well as many other industries, faced significant material shortages and supply chain issues as a result of the pandemic – presenting a critical challenge to the Cookridge Street development.

Contract manager at John Sisk & Son Peter Dawson, explains why this was a major contributor as to why Marshalls were brought onboard. He said:

“From the outset of the project, we had a number of crucial deadlines that had to be met. Aware of the supply chain issues, and having previously worked with Marshalls, I was confident we could rely on Marshalls.

“I knew that Marshalls would offer exceptional knowledge and expertise, as well as quality materials that result in a fantastic final product. Throughout the whole process, from early design stages to installation, Marshalls were very professional and a great help to the project.”

Having been completed for several months, the feedback from local businesses and members of the public has been overwhelmingly positive. Head of Projects and Programmes at Leeds City Council Jane Walne, said:

“Because Cookridge Street is near to a library and museum, it was important for us to make a welcoming and accessible community space. We’re very happy with the seating produced by Marshalls, as it’s both visually appealing and functional – which is exactly what we wanted.”

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