An influential civic watchdog group has expressed reservations over major plans to transform historic Stonebridge Mills into 126 homes.
The protected Stonebridge Lane building, which dates back to before 1805 as a steam-powered woollen mill, is Grade II Listed. But developers Stonebridge Mills Ltd say the redevelopment of the historic mills would be ‘sympathetic’.
But Leeds Civic Trust, while not officially opposing or supporting the development, has raised a number of issues with the proposals. In its official comment on the plans to Leeds City Council, the Trust said:
“The Trust welcomes the very detailed assessment of the buildings in the site, their present structural condition and potential for restoration for housing.
“We recognise (with one exception) that those buildings earmarked for demolition are of less architectural and historical interest and in a very poor state of repair.
“However, we feel that the proposed landscaping around the central core of the Listed Buildings to be retained fails to re-create the ‘sense of enclosure’ that is such a characteristic of the site. In fact, they appear to be isolated blocks surrounded on three sides by block paving and car parking spaces. This is not likely to be seen as an attractive residential environment.
“The Trust does not object to the scheme but feels that a number of improvements could be made in order to preserve the historic elements of the site and improve the amenity of future residents.”
These improvements include
- the chimney – an important local landmark – should be retained as high as possible
- setts and stone from any demolished buildings/roads should be utilised on site to give appropriate context to the historic elements
- if the water tower cannot be retained in situ, it should be partially reconstructed as ‘public art’ elsewhere on the site so as to retain the LODGE text on site
- a link should be provided from the proposed park SE towards Wortley to provide the opportunity for a quiet footpath (potentially cycle route?) away from the busy ring road
- to give better access to bus stops on Pudsey Road and Tong Road where services are more
frequent, a footpath link should be provided to Silver Royd Hill opposite the junction with Pipe & Nook Lane.
Historic England objects
Historic England, the public body that looks after the country’s historic environment, has objected and has criticised the ‘unjustified ‘demolition of two listed buildings. In its objection comment, it said:
“Firstly, the amount of demolition proposed and secondly the unsympathetic ‘garden village’ concept for the form and layout of the new housing development.
“The ‘garden village’ concept for the new housing layout does not respond to the
distinctive industrial character of this unique place and what makes this place special.
The generic suburban form of the housing would erode the special character and
setting of complex.”
The lengthy response can be read in full here.
A range of housing, from two-bed to five-bed properties, would be included in the site. A new parkland area would also be created alongside Farnley Beck and access to the site would be off Stonebridge Lane.
Developers say the mill pond on the site would be removed. In addition, the proposal includes the demolition of two Grade II Listed Buildings, Metre House and cottages to the south of the site and the row of workshops to the north-west of the site.
West Leeds Dispatch readers gave the proposals a mixed reception back in April, with some raising concerns about infrastructure and the density of the development, while others praised the redevelopment of the decaying buildings.
A poll saw just over 50% of respondents support the development, 28% oppose it, 11% say they’d prefer something else and nearly 10% favour a supermarket, plans for which were withdrawn a few years ago. More than 150 people took part in the poll.
The plans can be read in full here.
As well as myself there are three local people who have made objection comments. There are also adverse reports from various consultees other than Historic Leeds. These are The Nature Team, The Environmental Agency, Environment and Design Group of LCC and The Landscape Team of LCC as well as comments from West Yorkshire Police, Leeds Planning Team, Flood Risk Management Team and The Highways Team all asking for clarification or objecting on certain details.
It would appear that the developers, hopefully, have a lot more work to do to appease all of these influential groups as well as the concerned citizens. Historic England have also stated that of the development is given the go ahead with the demolition of the Grade II listed buildings then it MUST be referred to the Secretary of State!
The developers only care about £££. The Leeds City Council only cares about £££ (Council Tax Bill for 126 dwellings would yield £150,000+ yr income).
I raised a thorough objection which focused on issues around wildlife; greenery/nature/scenery; historic landmark for future generations; already overpopulated schools, clinics, and etc in area, poor traffic management, dirty streets and more.
To date none of the issues which were raised received even a generic response from the Council or Developers.
The Leeds City Council should put pressure on the developers to keep the land clean and maintained. If this property will be kept clean, people would then have more trust in the Developer and the Council. Only then local people should vote on what would benefit the area and find a balanced approach to tick all the boxes – for example – a park with a pond, a few homes, a few businesses. The problem is, it wouldn’t be of financial interest to the Developer or Leeds City Council. If there is a need for more dwellings, there a plenty of rotten land just yards away from this priceless and historic piece of jewel in our town.