Dreaming big for the future


INNOVATIVE architecture students are drawing up futuristic plans to help regenerate the Five Towns.

Designs for a geothermal cannabis farm at the former Ferry Fryston colliery and a glorified Haribo greenhouse at the former Prince of Wales pit site in Pontefract are just two ideas dreamed up to build a sustainable future for the towns.

The Leeds Metropolitan University students, who are in their final year of study, set their sights on former pit towns after identifying them as untapped sources of energy.

University lecturer Vernon Thomas said: “We have been looking at Wakefield district and the Five Towns in particular, coming up with designs for 2030.

“Two students have looked at how pit villages function. All mining areas are filled with water so all you have to do is pump it up the surfaces. What people don’t realise is there’s not just empty space or caverns, the water down there is 32 degrees.

“This model could be introduced throughout the UK to regenerate villages blighted by the closure of the mines and potentially bring back former facilities local people enjoyed when the mines were at their most productive.”

Student James Wakeling, looked into using geothermal energy from the old mines to create an environment for cannabis plants to grow.

His plan involves harvesting the plant for its by product, hemp, which can be used to form hempcrete – a substance like concrete – textiles and fuel oil.

The site would then be able to generate continuous income to support the other features of James’ vision, which includes building a spa, health centre, hospice, housing and sports facilities on the former site.

Similarly at the former Prince of Wales colliery site, Mark Crosby has researched replacing gelatin in Haribo’s confectionery with pectin – a vegetarian substitute grown from citrus fruits which uses less energy to generate than gelatin.

He has designed an environment for the site which uses the water from the mines to heat growing areas so lemons and oranges can thrive, together with a major visitor attraction to generate tourism in the area.

Mr Thomas said: “We decided to use Wakefield and the Five Towns because the students felt the area would benefit more.

“People need to be aware of the future in terms of what possibilities there are. They are realistic projects.

“The motivation is very different, they want to make a difference and do something to benefit people or make things more sustainable for the long-term.

“Architects don’t just design buildings, it’s more than that, it’s about making people think about where they live and using untapped sources of energy.

“There’s no money, so we have to think of ways to make money. It’s a different take on future regeneration and planning.”

The exhibition will also include a revamp of Castleford’s Burberry factory to include a visitor centre to create jobs and training opportunities for the next generation of youngsters.

Designs will be unveiled to the public in an empty shop unit temporarily named ‘Future Wakefield’ on Westgate, near the Ridings Shopping Centre entrance in Wakefield city centre, on Saturday June 4, between 11am and 4pm.

Displays will continue to be on show every Thursday and Friday between 11am and 4pm from June 9 to July 1.