It’s no secret district centres are facing a tough time of it, writes John Baron.
In the past few weeks, we’ve reported on the closure threat to Pudsey’s Post Office and the planned closure of the Yorkshire Building Society branch in Farsley.
These are just two very recent examples which epitomise the threats to our local centres.
But it was with some optimism that news emerged from Wednesday’s full council meeting that £5 million was to be allocated to boost district centres across Leeds.
.@cllrjudithblake pledges a new fund of £5 million dedicated to improving district town centres in Leeds. #leedscouncil
— Leeds Labour 2018 (@LeedsLabour2018) February 22, 2017
Don’t get me wrong, £5 million sounds a lot, but it’s not a massive amount if it’s to be spread across the entire city. And the devil will be in the detail – for example, there’s no information yet on over how many years that money will be given.
But overall it’s a positive and long overdue move. And here at The Dispatch we’re going to put an marker down in the sand and highlight two areas here in the west of the city that simply MUST benefit from a sizeable chunk of that cash, whenever it becomes available.
Work has been ongoing for some time to help boost Armley Town Street, thanks to a Heritage Lottery grant and the work of local community groups and organisations. Hopefully things are starting to turn around there and I know All Together Armley and local politicians will continue to press for more investment there.
Really positive news for district centres like #Armley which are in need of investment. @AlltogetherArm @WLDispatch https://t.co/GPo6kweJN8
— Alice Smart (@Alice_Smart) February 22, 2017
And Bramley District Centre’s owners seem to have strong ideas on how to improve that centre, and last year saw the start of that with the resurfacing of the car park there.
I know there are strong and valid arguments for more investment in those areas (and I wouldn’t be against them receiving cash).
But, in terms of pressing priority, today our shout out goes for both Pudsey and Kirkstall!
Pudsey’s problems are well documented. The historic market town has been lacking in proper Armley-style investment for years.
The park is a gem and the Pudsey in Bloom group do a great job of boosting the town centre each summer (fingers crossed for gold this year!). But volunteers can only go so far. They’re not the local authority with a legal and elected responsibility for roads, paths, the market etc etc.
Poorly maintained paths, weeds growing on the side of pavements, a Saturday market that’s in need of a real boost (and some proper promotion). The list goes on … the shop fronts lack a consitent identity and areas like Booths Yard and Lowtown deserve a boost.
And last time I was in Pudsey Town Hall it was deserted – that building (which houses the beautiful Pudsey council chamber, which is a real gem and a reminder of the town’s past) needs properly utilising or we’ll lose it.
What Pudsey town centre needs is a coherent, joined up plan for the future.
The original Kirkstall District Centre on Kirkstall Lane was fatally undermined by the Morrisons development in 1999. There was no way that a small local supermarket with 160 parking spaces and constricted access could compete with a much newer and larger retail outlet with over 600 parking spaces.
This area has now been demolished and cleared for redevelopment, but there are issues about the form that such development should take.
What Kirkstall now lacks is a heart.
Perhaps the site – earmarked for a new Tesco store for so long – could benefit from some residential and some fairly limited retail development, perhaps combined with services such as a local medical facility, a library and other council facilities on the site. Clearly ongoing issues with traffic need to be taken into consideration.
Perhaps Kirkstall Neighbourhood Forum will help shape how investment could be used with their emerging Kirkstall Neighbourhood Plan.
Clearly there needs to be come considerable thought given to the fiture of both Pudsey and Kirkstall centres. But if the council is serious about making a real impact, it needs to move away from smnaller £25,000 grants here and there, and really focus on making a big impact in a small number of communities.
Let’s hope the council makes some wise decisions.
Could anyone argue against Pudsey and Kirkstall not getting the attention they’re crying out for?
Farnley, ha! Nothing there since the greens put a stop to the Tesco supermarket.