Council pushes ahead with plans for historic First White Cloth Hall
Regeneration chiefs in Leeds are set to take action to secure the future of one of the city’s most historic buildings.
Members of the council’s executive board will be updated next week on the unique project to revitalise the First White Cloth Hall as part of the ambitious Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative.
The Grade II* listed building, one of Yorkshire’s oldest surviving cloth markets, is the cornerstone of the landmark scheme to restore Leeds’s oldest street to its former glory.
But the hall is in a poor condition and has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 1999.
The council has been in negotiation with the owners for several years to secure the building’s future and successfully applied for a £1.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help fund vital repairs.
Now, after being unable to reach a lease agreement, the executive board will be asked to approve measures to purchase the freehold on the site to enable plans to progress.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said:
“The First White Cloth Hall is a hugely important part of our city’s heritage which we are determined to see repaired, revitalised and brought back into use as soon as we can.
“The window of opportunity to accomplish that is growing ever smaller and it is imperative that we act now if we are to secure the site for future generations.”
As well as acquiring the freehold for the site, the executive board will also be asked to approve bringing together a multi-disciplinary design team to draw up proposals for the refurbishment.
The First White Cloth Hall was built in 1711 and played an important role in Leeds becoming the centre of the county’s textile trade.
Its refurbishment is the central project in the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which aims to protect and restore the historic character of a number of other buildings in the Lower Kirkgate area.
A total of £1.5m has been awarded to the project from the HLF, which will be matched with £668k public funding.
This, along with £894k potential private funding, could bring the total investment to an estimated £2.6m and create up to 80 new jobs.
The initiative has already seen 92 Kirkgate, a former 18th Century cloth merchant’s house, transformed into a traditional Yorkshire café and grants are also being pursued for a number of other buildings in the area.
Councillor Lewis added:
“We’ve made some really important strides over the past year in our long term plan to regenerate the Lower Kirkgate are and we’re keen to keep up the momentum.
“This area is part of the bedrock of Leeds’s heritage but it has been neglected for far too long and is becoming increasingly vulnerable.
“Taking decisive action now puts us in a stronger position to encourage the investment needed to help Lower Kirkgate achieve its potential to be a thriving, contemporary part of Leeds.”
To read a full copy of the report, visit: http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s144154/White%20Cloth%20Hall%20Cover%20Report%20Appendices%201-4%20080416.pdf