Regeneration chiefs have vowed to press ahead with a landmark project to protect and restore one of the city’s most historic streets following a major fire earlier this month.
The blaze at Hills Furniture, 103 Kirkgate, broke out on Friday, November 6 and caused serious structural damage to the building.
The council’s building control officers carried out detailed assessments in the days following the fire and determined that the remaining structure had to be demolished to ensure public safety.
The site lies within the area of the Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative, a project that aims to protect and restore the historic character of a number of buildings in the Lower Kirkgate area, which was once the centre of the city’s cloth industry and is one of the oldest streets in Leeds.
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said the council was determined the fire would not impact on plans to restore the area to its former glory.
He said: “The fire was obviously unfortunate and caused a significant amount of damage and disruption while the site was made safe.
“Despite this, we remain resolute in our determination to see this historic part of Leeds restored, refurbished and improved in a way that’s befitting of its importance to the city’s heritage.”
Investigation of the site following the fire has also revealed a number of features, including what could be a medieval timber framed building which had remained completely hidden until the demolition.
Council officers are now working with colleagues at Historic England to record any relevant information from the site.
Cllr Lewis added: “This sad incident has further emphasised just how historically important the area is and what a significant opportunity it represents to revitalise what we firmly believe can be a vibrant part of the of the city centre.
“The Townscape Heritage Initiative provides a once in a generation chance for owners to refurbish properties which are in need of repair, making them more attractive to shoppers and bringing new businesses into vacant premises.
“This is a long term vision, but the people of Leeds can be assured that the council is committed to ensuring that Lower Kirkgate is a place which the whole city can be proud of again.”
The Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, aims to regenerate the First White Cloth Hall and other historic buildings.
The scheme has seen a total £1.05m 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.
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