Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
and John Baron, WLD editor
Leeds City Council is “in talks” with the owner of part of Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve to save it from a potential sale, according to a senior Leeds politician.
It follows campaigners in west Leeds expressing their disbelief at the decision to put part of the reserve up for auction, with a guide of just £500.
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve, which sits on the site of the former Kirkstall Power Station, is thought to be home to more than 130 species of plants and 65 species of birds.
Site owners National Grid had recently placed land off Redcote Lane up for auction via Allsop’s, which listed the 30-acre site, which appears to take up roughly half of the reserve, with a guide price of just “£500+”.
Residents spotted that ‘Land off Redcote Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS4’ had been listed on the Rightmove site last Friday.
But this afternoon, Leeds City Council executive board member Coun Fiona Venner (Lab) claimed the council was in talks with National Grid to potentially take control of the site and save it from possible future developments. She posted online:
“I posted about this yesterday as it caused great consternation amongst the local community that National Grid had put this land up for sale.
“Good News! The council has a line of communication open with the vendor about the council potentially purchasing the land. We are currently undertaking due diligence.
“Obviously, this is a legal process and I will update again when I can. But if we can go ahead this will keep the Nature Reserve as community space!”
Cllr Venner said the Armley and Kirkstall councillors found out about the sale on Saturday when community organisation Kirkstall Valley Development Trust alerted them.
Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve is managed by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and has several walking trails through grassland, wetland and woodland.
According to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the site’s meadows sustain a “myriad of insect life including the small copper butterfly”, as well as young woodland with fruit-bearing shrubs attracting feeding birds, while ponds and ditches host populations of toads, frogs and newts.
More than 130 plant species have been recorded on site along with 65 species of birds.
Speaking earlier today, Armley councillor Lou Cunningham (Lab) had said Yorkshire Wildlife Trust had a long-term lease on the site, but did not know whether this lease has been or will soon be expiring. She said:
“I found out on Saturday when a resident phoned me about it. I am very concerned and in disbelief. If something like this was happening I would have thought we would have had some communication.”
“We are hoping that we can facilitate some kind of arrangement via a long-term lease. They have a few sites up for auction around the country.”
According to auctioneers Allsop’s, the auction is currently listed to take place on November 9.
The listing also specifies that the land amounts to 30.76 acres, and is designated in the Local Plan as ‘Green Space, Other Protected Land and Urban Green Corridor’.
Community organisation Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT) has voiced its concern about any proposed sale of land. KVDT, which runs nearby Kirkstall Valley Farm, said on social media:
“We were shocked to discover that the Kirkstall Nature Reserve is going to be sold at auction by the current owner, National Grid. This would be a devastating loss to the Kirkstall Valley.
“Kirkstall Valley Development Trust – plus councillors from Armley, Bramley and Kirkstall – are working together to try and ensure that this wonderful oasis is kept for the community.
“We’ll keep you posted when we know more but this might come down to a fight so be ready to roll up your sleeves!”
National Grid said it was “normal company practice” to continuously assess its property portfolio. A statement from the company added:
“National Grid own the land at Kirkstall, Leeds which is currently part of the Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve. Auctioneers Allsop, have been lined up to put the land through their auction in November.
“Both the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Leeds City Council have been advised of the plans to go to auction.”
Leeds City Council and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have been contacted for a comment.
For more Kirkstall news, follow this link.West Leeds Dispatch