26 Apr 2024

Statement regarding Aire Street Workshops

City centre

Statement regarding the planned sale of the Aire Street Workshops building in Leeds city centre.

A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “The council recognises that the proposed sale of Aire Street Workshops is a subject of significant concern for businesses based there.

“Given their concerns and the wider level of public interest in the building’s future, we feel it is important to set out the full facts regarding this matter.

“Above all, we are determined to support the site’s tenants and help as many of them as possible find new premises within Leeds.

“They and their predecessors have made Aire Street Workshops a hub for cultural and creative activity. However, it is also an ageing building that needs major repairs and improvements.

“We estimate that, for its present use to continue, the building would require a seven-figure investment to ensure it meets regulatory and energy performance standards.

“The unprecedented budget pressures facing the council mean we are unfortunately not able to fund that level of investment.

“Furthermore, even if the necessary funds were to be found and the work carried out, we anticipate that the improvements to the building would have to be reflected by rent rises that would place an unfair burden on the current tenants.

“A meeting was therefore held between the council and the building’s leaseholder, LCVS Enterprises, in September last year.

“At the meeting, LCVS were made aware that the site had been identified as a likely asset for sale and that a commercial property firm had been engaged to prepare a valuation report.

"For clarity, it was our expectation that LCVS, as leaseholder, would pass this news on to their individual tenants as soon as possible.

“The council is the site’s freehold owner and it has no formal relationship with the tenants of LCVS. As such, it is LCVS’s responsibility to liaise with them on matters such as a potential sale of the building.

“At September’s meeting, we also agreed to a request from LCVS for their current lease to be extended through to January 2025 so that their tenants had more time to find alternative accommodation prior to any sale.

“However, it appears that the tenants were not informed of the plans for the site until last week.

“This is clearly regrettable but we would once again stress that LCVS have known about our likely intentions since September.

“Indeed, it is hard to reconcile any suggestion of LCVS being unaware of the council’s intentions with their request for a lease extension that they linked to the need for tenants to find new premises.

“The council began discussions with LCVS as long ago as 2016 regarding the poor condition of the building and how it could impact its future operation.

“A letter was also sent to LCVS on February 19 this year confirming that the property was now scheduled for disposal during the 2024/25 financial year. This letter further confirmed that vacant possession would be required when the extended lease came to an end.

“At no point in the last seven months have LCVS given us any indication that tenants were not being kept fully informed of developments.

“As a council, we have been clear that, in light of our financial challenges, difficult decisions are having to be made across many service areas.

“As part of our efforts to deliver savings, the council continuously assesses all aspects of the portfolio of properties it owns or manages in communities throughout the city.

“The old Crossgates Library, former council offices in Rothwell and Thwaite Watermill at Stourton are just three of the various sites to be impacted to differing degrees by this process.

“Equally, we are keenly aware of the contribution made to life in Leeds by small businesses of the kind found in Aire Street Workshops.

“Our business support team will develop a targeted package of support for affected tenants over the coming weeks which, it is hoped, will help that contribution to continue and grow.

“The council can also confirm that, as part of the sale and bidder selection process, it will be willing to receive a range of offers, including ones that could allow the building to operate as a form of managed workspace.

“This approach reflects our wider ongoing commitment to culture and creativity in Leeds at a time when the council – like many other businesses and organisations across the city – is dealing with an extremely serious budget position.”


For media enquiries contact:

Leeds City Council Communications team