Lower Kirkgate to benefit from £2million refurbishment

A major programme of repair and refurbishment has taken a step further towards becoming a reality for the lower Kirkgate area of Leeds.

On Thursday 4th April Leeds City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund will launch a new townscape heritage initiative to invest over £2million in this historic area of the city to repair and refurbish existing business premises and bring back into use vacant properties including the iconic grade II* First White Cloth Hall.

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All media are invited to the launch of the Lower Kirkgate townscape heritage initiative on Thursday 4 April at 11.30am on Lower Kirkgate. Cllr Richard Lewis and Dr. Fiona Spiers will be launching the initiative. Please call the press office on 0113 247 4450 to arrange attendance.

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Kirkgate is Leeds’ first street, and therefore a site of historic value. The buildings that can be seen today illustrate the city’s 19th century development, and there is even evidence of an Anglo-Saxon settlement in the area.

The fabric of the street has deteriorated over many years with a number of properties vacant or underused, in contrast with its surroundings. The lack of investment up until now is due in part to the high cost associated with the refurbishment of heritage rich buildings and by the blighting effect of the First White Cloth Hall. It is hoped that the scheme will serve to develop this part of the city through providing funding assistance to encourage private sector investment, transforming lower Kirkgate into a vibrant and distinct leisure and retail destination within the city centre.

The Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) adds to the two ongoing THI schemes in Armley and Chapeltown, making Leeds the only city in the country with three schemes.

It is anticipated that work on site will start in early 2014..

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for development and the economy said:

“Leeds City Centre really is bucking the national trend, and has a huge amount of developments popping up at the moment, with many more in the pipeline.

“This said we want to make sure the whole of city is keeping up, and this part of the city in particular is very much in need of refurbishment.

“We have many wonderful listed buildings and beautiful historic places in the centre of Leeds and it is important we keep these alive, whilst also making sure any disused buildings are brought back into use for any businesses that may wish to come to the city.

“This initiative will not only bring a historic part of the city back to life, but will also provide jobs in the construction industry, improve on the heritage of the city and secure private sector investment in the long term, which will in turn create more jobs.

Dr. Fiona Spiers, regional director of the Heritage Lottery Fund said:

"The First White Cloth Hall and the area around Kirkgate is absolutely central to the history and heritage of Leeds. Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted to be involved in the regeneration of this area through the Townscape Heritage Initiative, which should bring new life and activity to the area, and help those who live and work there learn more about their historic surroundings.’’

Notes to editors:

Townscape Heritage Initiative is a nation wide scheme which offers grants that help communities to regenerate Conservation Areas displaying particular social and economic need.

For media enquiries, please contact;

Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450

Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk