What are the ideas behind Armley’s Town Centre Revival Plan? Will a new supermarket ever be built on Carr Crofts? What makes Armley so unique?
Cllr Alison Lowe (Lab, Armley) answered some of those questions when West Leeds Life caught up with her for a chat at last night’s Good Stuff Armley event, which celebrated the positive stuff going on in the suburb.
“I love Armley, there are so many good people here and so many good things happening that people don’t get to hear about.”
Alison Lowe is keen to talk about her enthusiasm for the Armley community amidst the hurly burly of the well-attended Good Stuff Armley event at Armley Conservative Club.
Armley Town Centre Revival Plan
She says the plan, supported by all three Armley councillors and MP Rachel Reeves but met with scepticism in some quarters, underpins efforts to make Town Street a more pleasant place to be for shoppers and workers alike.
Cllr Lowe believes the plan is key to securing vital extra investment into the area, on top of the £1 million already ploughed into cosmetic improvements – including Yorkstone footpaths, new shop signage and new street furniture – as part of the Armley Townscape Heritage Initiative.
But a string of problems currently blight the area including street drinking, anti-social behaviour, rubbish dumping and derelict buildings.
People behind the plan – councillors, members of the council’s anti-social behaviour team and representatives from Rachel Reeves’ office – had their first meeting on Monday, where they discussed issues including anti-social behaviour on Town Street.
Cllr Lowe said:
“I know one Armley worker is terrified of standing at a particular bus stop on Town Street because of drinkers around there. We are aware of it and we are working to tackle it.
“There’s a small number of hardcore offenders who are the problem. They’re mainly British men who live in the area.”
The area is currently covered by a Designated Public Places Order (DPPO), which gives police officers the power to confiscate alcohol and issue penalties, but Cllr Lowe said this has only a limited impact on persistent offenders.
“We’re aiming to get injunctions with the power of arrest attached to tackle the problem – that’s a step up from DPPOs.
“To get a judge to issue them we need people to write to us – in complete confidence – and complain about any harassment and intimidation they’ve experienced.
“Without those complaints we can’t go to a judge to get an injunction so I’d urge people to get in touch with us.
“We – as councillors – are not the answer on our own. Without people giving statements, nothing will change.
“We’re engaging with shopkeepers to get statements from them, too. Ultimately, we’re hoping this will sort out the problems on Town Street which are putting people off from coming.”
She said fellow Armley councillor Jim McKenna had looked at anti-social behaviour on the Westerleys and Burnsalls.
Cllr Lowe said some of the problems with rubbish in the area were on private land, which makes it more difficult for the council to act. Some is caused by the Town Street drinkers and some by homeless people.
New supermarket for Armley?
Back in 2011 councillors approved initial plans for a 90,000 sq ft supermarket on stilts with more than 500 car parking spaces, a petrol filling station and shop, three new retail units, new “town square” and off-site highway improvements at Carr Crofts).
The hope was that the redevelopment, which would have created up to 400 jobs, would boost the regeneration of Town Street. It’s believed either Asda or Tesco were in negotiations with the developer, Morbaine, at the time.
“Then the downturn and austerity came,” said Cllr Lowe. “And that changed the landscape for supermarkets forever. The whole thing has gone on the backburner, despite the developer spending tens of thousands of pounds on securing planning permission.
“As councillors we’ve campaigned long and hard for five years to get a big supermarket in there and secure that investment for Town Street.
“My understanding is the applicant was trying to get a smaller supermarket like Aldi or Netto in there. But another land opportunity for a supermarket has opened up on Tong Road and I’m not sure what’s happening with that.”
Details of the proposed scheme, which involves 11 landowners, can be found here.
Cllr Lowe said that no matter what happened with the supermarket plans, Armley had lots to offer, with fewer shop vacancies than its more illustrious neighbour of Pudsey.
She also flagged up the possibility of other development opportunities on Theaker Lane and Ley Lane.
Armley’s rich history
Cllr Lowe said people should be proud to live in Armley:
“There’s lots of great things going on, like this amazing event [Good Stuff Armley] tonight. Armley appears in the Doomsday Book and we’ve got some shop fronts dating back to the 1700s. We have an amazing history here.
“There’s a lot to be proud of, like the one stop shop (which author Barbara Taylor Bradford opened), the health centre and the boards highlighting Armley’s famous people.”
Cllr Lowe holds surgeries Every Saturday at New Wortley Community Centre from 10am-10.30am and Armley One Stop Centre, 10.30am–11am. Ring her on 07981 772298 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.