By John Baron and Richard Beecham
The abandoned Loony Bin joke shop in Armley is set to be sold by Leeds City Council.
The former shop, at 100 Town Street, has been closed since the owner was jailed indefinitely in January 2012 after he admitted a string of sex assaults on children in his shop at his nearby home.
It was revealed earlier this year that Leeds City Council had bought the dilapidated building via a compulsory purchase order for £76,000.
A report set to go before council decision-makers next week lists seven council-owned sites expected to go up for auction in the coming months, in an attempt to help plug the council’s £119m budget gap for the coming year.
Otley Civic Centre, Temple Newsam’s East Lodge, as well as land at Hill Crest in Swillington and Lea Farm Road on the Hawksworth Estate in Kirkstall, will all be put up for sale by auction imminently.
The document also includes plans to speed up the sales of Potternewton Park’s East Lodge in Chapel Allerton and the former Royal Park Primary caretaker’s house in Hyde Park. It is hoped these sites can go to auction in December.
The report, to be discussed at next week’s executive board meeting, did not make clear how much money was expected to be made from the sales.
“Armley ward members have been actively exploring opportunities to deliver a community use for the property at 100 Town Street. Given that a viable solution could not be identified, it is considered that the property lends itself to disposal via auction.”
WLD revealed in January that Armley’s councillors had hoped to Gateway funding to turn the former Loony Bin into an information centre for residents.
Nearby residents had complained about the dangerous state of the shop building and that rat infestations from the building were causing problems.
Council officers warned that there were a “number of risks” associated with the sales, adding:
“The main risk [is] to the delay of completion on any sale which will therefore create holding costs to the Council. The proposed disposal properties are all surplus to operational requirements and are to be offered by way of auction for sale.”
It follows claims made by a senior civil servant at a scrutiny board meeting this week that £39m of “one-off” savings – including asset sales – would have to be made in the next year in order to plug a £119m gap in the council’s finances.
A report which went before councillors in January 2020 said the authority was expected to raise around £95m by selling dozens of sites across the city between 2019 and 2022.
In addition to sites already sold in 2019, such as the former Burley Library in Cardigan Road and the former Wortley High School, it listed sites including the former Holt Park District Centre, Otley Civic Centre and Abbey Mills in Kirkstall for “disposal” over the next couple of years.
WLD commented last month calling on the council to be ‘open and transparent’ over selling well-known community buildings.