Campaigners aiming to take historic Abbey Mills in Kirkstall into community ownership are facing a nervous wait to see if they can press ahead with their plans.
Members of the Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT) have raised £47,000 through a community share issue to put together an initial business plan to transform the crumbling mills for community and work use.
But Chris Hill, from KVDT, has warned the campaign must now play a waiting game until the autumn and has put plans to take partial occupation of the building on hold. He said:
“Our problem is that we are blocked from taking action until the council have completed their marketing exercise to see if anyone else is interested in developing the mill.
“It’s no use drawing on the voluntary effort of supporters or spending investors’ money if we are not going to be allowed to take occupation of the mill.
“We have been assured the marketing exercise will start in July and be finished in September and will do what we can to make sure this timetable is stuck to. Whatever the outcome we will be looking forward to an active autumn.”
As reported in May, a bid to Heritage Lottery for £85,000 to pay for architectural and surveyor fees, project management and marketing was turned down as being too high risk by funders. But since then KVDT has resubmitted a smaller Lottery bid, applied for other grants and arranged to meet potential partners for the scheme.
A public meeting attended by 22 people last month looked at what might go on in Abbey Mills if the Trust took temporary occupation of at least part of it.
Ideas generated at the meeting included creating a hub which would provide a centre to the Kirkstall community.
Other ideas included running deli, farmers and craft markets, performance and events space, recording studios, exhibitions, theatre, play facilities for kids, a library, climbing wall, business space, cycle repairs, community classes such as IT and a whole host of other potential uses.
KVDT’s aim is to develop a learning and leisure park over 200 hidden acres of Kirkstall Valley and to refurbish two heritage mills that lie at its heart.