At least two organisations have expressed an interest in taking on the former West Leeds Country Park Visitors Centre and glasshouse in Pudsey park, WLD understands.
Both facilities shut in February 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and never re-opened after a subsequent round of Leeds City Council budget cuts permanently closing the facilities last year in a bid to save the local authority £90,000 a year.
Council bosses last month invited expressions of interest for the former visitor centre, comprising animal enclosures, aviaries and aquariums as well as associated welfare rooms, offices, a classroom and toilets. The glasshouse next door is also available.
The council says there is potential for alternative use for the former visitors centre and interest in taking over the buildings has come from Steven Newbatt, who runs Farsley’s Candied Peel Cake Co, and the Pudsey Community Project.
Mr Newbatt wants to transform the visitors centre into an attraction attracting people cfrom across the city, including a ‘travel back in time and explore’ dinosaur adventure, gift shop and community fruit and vegetable patch. It would also feature fully equipped meeting facilities, sensory area, visiting exhibits around local school curriculum and a fully restocked growhouse.
The growhouse will be minimally restocked to tie in with the overall attraction, while incorporating a snack kiosk and seating will be available for both attraction visitors and non patrons.
“It’s going to be a major milestone in bringing visitors and commercial expenditure back to Pudsey,” Mr Newbatt said.
“We’ll take visitors through an interactive journey from the dinosaurs up to present day, with exhibits provided by Plastic Free Leeds, Leeds Museums, Leeds University and our exclusively sourced exhibits.
“The growhouse will be replanted by our generous sponsors Palmers plants , this will incorporate the snack kiosk, gift shop and food hall supplied by local suppliers
“A Changing Places toilet facility will be in place alongside our snack kiosk and seating, open to all Pudsey Park visitors.
“We won’t rely on grants, the project will be fully sustainable both in the short and long term.”
Local charity Pudsey Community Project has also been working on an expression of interest for the site. Posting on social media, an announcement read:
“As a local charity established to help transform Pudsey and its surrounding areas with and for the local community, protecting its assets and resources is really important to us and we would be pleased if it turned out we could help coordinate their future.
“While our expression of interest is considered by the council we plan to hold some consultations for the local community at Pudsey Parish Church just 100m away from the park in November to hear residents’ ideas and share our own.
“So far our discussions centre around the glasshouse working as a botanical classroom for local schools and the visitors’ centre opening as soon as possible with a simple volunteer-run kiosk and open toilet. There are plenty of possibilities for the centre beyond that but we are aware from our experience in community work that broader plans would need to be community-driven and would require funding bids, local support and no rush, for them to work well.
Pudsey Community Project said details about the open consultation would be revealed after the half term holidays.
The council has said it will retain a small section of the former visitor centre which has historically been used for staff and equipment to maintain the park.
The council has not revealed details of how many expressions of interest it has received in total following last Friday’s deadline. All applications will now be considered by council officers.
Follow WLD‘s coverage of the centre’s closure and possible new lease of life here.
West Leeds Dispatch‘s Cutswatch series has been detailing cuts in West Leeds here.
Perhaps Leeds City Council could take it over, use it as low cost office space, and move out of their city centre, expensive offices. Although, probably no. They would have to find somewhere to park, which is impossible, or get a bus to Pudsey, if the one they wait for to get them to work on time turns up!!