It’s been almost six months since plans were submitted to transform the Grade II listed former Rising Sun pub into a coffee shop with flats above.
Dispatch editor JOHN BARON looks at what’s happening to the much-loved building after it was removed from the council’s ‘heritage at risk’ register – without explanation – earlier this year.
There can be little doubt that we could well lose the Rising Sun building completely unless something happens soon to bring the decaying Rising Sun pub back into use.
The Grade II listed former pub on Kirkstall Road has sat empty for a number of years.
The pub, which dates back to around 1895, has long since closed, reopening as a second-hand furniture shop in 2011. It was severely damaged by fire in 2013, has suffered from vandalism and drug use and its downstairs was left under several feet of water when the River Aire flooded on Boxing Day 2015.
Now developer Mick Ackroyd wants to use the upper floors as apartments, restore and refurbish the ground floor as a coffee bar and lounge and discard some of the outside ‘green space’ in order to provide safe access and parking.
Those plans seem to be progressing – albeit slowly.
Last week the Environment Agency, which had previously objected to the plans – accepted slightly revised proposals from Mr Ackroyd to tackle flooding risks at the building.
And two key organisations in civic watchdog Leeds Civic Trust and Leeds Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) have given their blessing to the plans – although both still hope that ultimately the building could become a pub again.
Leeds Civic Trust said:
“We feel it is the best possible outcome given both changed trading conditions, previous fire damage, vandalism and neglect.
“We would wish to see work start as soon as possible in order to avoid the risk of further damage to the building and so that this fine former listed pub can be brought back into beneficial use as soon as possible.
“We hope that all the original ground floor fixtures and fittings can be restored and reused so that the public can continue to appreciate the fine interior and in such a manner that possible future use as licenced premises is not precluded.”
And David Gamston from Leeds CAMRA added:
“The historical and architectural significance of the building is, quite unambiguously, as a purpose-designed Victorian public house and, despite its demise as an active pub in recent years, it appears to retain sufficient of its original ground floor fabric and layout to justify hopes that it may one day revert to that original purpose.
“The present application keeps that future option open (and, indeed, makes some reference to it in the Heritage Statement) and we feel it provides a thoughtful and sympathetic solution for bringing back life to this heritage asset, at least in the short term.”
CAMRA raise some concerns about the demolition of a wall and opening up of the former pool room, but otherwise they’re supportive.
It appears there is just one key obstacle still to overcome. Council highways officers have said the parking provision on the site is acceptable, but have raised concerns about the proposed exit onto Kirkstall Road.
They say the existing two-way access should be retained and have asked developers for a revised plan addressing their concerns.
There are also a couple of local objections to the plans.
Dietrich Jeffreys, of Bankfield Terrace, Burley, says the building should be demolished to accommodate road improvements to reduce traffic congestion. And Gail Darwell, of Wolseley Road, raises concerns about the loss of green space on the site.
Plans to de-list the late Victorian pub’s historic internal features and transform the building into six flats were refused by Leeds City Council planners last year. Planners said at the time the proposals to remove internal fittings would cause ‘substantial harm to the special character and significance of the listed interiors’.
As the latest plans slowly wind their way through the council’s planning process, it’s clear that unless a potential owner who wants to re-open it as a pub comes along soon, these current proposals could well be a last chance saloon for the decaying building.
Its future hangs in the balance. We’ll be watching with interest.