Ambitious plans to transform a Kirkstall mill into a community hub have moved a step closer reality after campaigners gained initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT) has received an initial £20,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £5,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund to work with architects on the options for developing historic Abbey Mills, and to explore potential commercial partners.
Work will begin in October this year and be completed by June 2018. It will explore and cost what community facilities might be accommodated on the site and what is needed to accommodate the launch of the Leeds Centre for Sustainable Cities which would look to transform transport, energy, food and nature, housing and work in the city.
At the same time KVDT has said it will work with the owners, Leeds City Council, and potential commercial partners to improve the grade II listed Abbey Mills, which has been near-empty for 12 years.
KVDT development director Chris Hill said there were no community facilities in Kirkstall and stressed Trust supporters, councillors and local community groups would be fully involved in shaping future ideas. He added:
“We are at the start of discussions with the council. This support enables us to make our case that the Trust is best placed to act as developer of Abbey Mills.”
Adele Rae, Burley resident and community director of the trust, said:
“For 30 years we have worked to open up Kirkstall Valley to community use and establish community facilities. HLF backing to develop options for the mill is a great boost to making our campaign a reality.”
KVDT was formed in October 2016 as a community benefit society to develop Abbey Mills and St Ann’s Mill as primarily education and leisure facilities tied into the creation of a 200-acre Kirkstall Valley Park.
Members of the 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.
Leeds City Council is currently carrying out a marketing exercise to see which companies and organisations are interested in developing the mill site.
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 resubmitted a smaller Lottery bid, applied for other grants and arranged to meet potential partners for the scheme.
KVDT is holding its annual general meeting on Thursday, 28 September from 7.30pm at New Burley Club, Burley Hill Drive. All welcome to attend.