Council set to take over landmark Leeds industrial buildings

three chimneysFour Grade II listed buildings look set to be handed over to Leeds City Council within the coming weeks.

The landmark industrial buildings – all on the Tower Works site in Holbeck – are currently owned by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), but would be transferred to council ownership if senior councillors agree to the plan at a meeting next week.

If the deal goes ahead, the buildings – the Engine House, Giotto Tower, Verona Tower and Little Chimney – would come with a “dowry” from the HCA – enough cash to enable the council to maintain three of them in perpetuity and refurbish the fourth (the Engine House) ahead of bringing it back into use.

Why does the HCA want rid?

Well, according to a report prepared for the meeting next Wednesday (13th March), the HCA wants to sell the Tower Works site, but the four listed buildings are proving to be a bit of a liability.

“Removing the buildings from the HCA Tower Works site is likely to realise redevelopment of this site sooner, as the financial viability of any redevelopment scheme will be improved and risk to the developer reduced,” the report says.

“Redevelopment of the prominent Tower Works site on the edge of Holbeck Urban Village is likely to act as a catalyst for further development in the Village. The Council can assist with reviving development activity by acquiring the buildings and de-risking the HCA Tower Works site,” it adds.

Buildings to be held in trust

tower worksBut if the deal is going to happen, it’s got to happen now. The HCA’s maintenance dowry is only available till 28th March, the end of the financial year, the report says.

That means that any challenge to next week’s decision lodged through the council’s call-in process would effectively take the deal beyond that deadline and knock it on the head. For that reason the senior councillors are being asked to agree that the decision is made exempt from the call-in process.

The size of the dowry hadn’t been agreed at the time the report was being written, but will be made known confidentially to councillors at the meeting next week.

If the deal goes through, the towers and chimney would be transferred to a Trust set up by the council with the sole purpose of preserving the buildings.

The Engine House, which could be of commercial interest, would probably only get refurbished or sold once the HCA has secured a purchaser for the Tower Works site, the report says.


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6 Responses to Council set to take over landmark Leeds industrial buildings

  1. Charles knowles says:

    Oh no this is the worst thing that can happen! Lcc will just flog it off or let it fall into disrepair through poor management! Just look at poor old stank hall barn grade 1 and ten years ago council put loads of cash into it before they then let it fall into a horrible state of disrepair!!! The developer mindset in the council is worse than any private firm! If only the civic trust would do more but they don’t seem to have the gumption!

  2. Steve Williamson says:

    Charles, I don’t think that will happen – art least not in the short to medium term. The Homes and Communities Agency will require LCC to maintain the buildings as part of the deal. The HCA is a government quango and LCC needs its future funding for any social housing programme. In the event of any default HCA or its successors will take legal action to enforce these requirements.

  3. Is it true to say that the liabilities that private developers wont take on (these towers) have been transferred to the local authority (ie costs to be born by rate payers) enabling profitable development of the remaining site by private sector. Just another way of subsidising ‘regeneration’ based on trickle down theory? Or have I got it wrong?

  4. Steve Williamson says:

    No , Mike, you have got it wrong!

    As I understand it, a government body (taxation funded) the HCA is able to get the rest of the Tower Works site redeveloped by the private sector because it has passed the other buildings plus dowry to LCC. For obvious reasons the size of the dowry is confidential so the real question is whether that is sufficient. For people concerned with the future of the traditionally residential part of Holbeck (as opposed to Holbeck Urban Village) the best prospect for achieving sustainable regeneration of that area is viable development spreading south from the city centre.

  5. Pingback: South Leeds Roundup: Hopscotch, Chimneys and Yellow Lines - South Leeds Life

  6. Shaun Cohen,Leeds says:

    This is one of the liabilities left over from the closure of the Regional Development Agencies. They were funding the development of the site prior to their abolition, originally the Government want local authorities to have to buy these sites if they wanted to take them on. The passing of ownership to the HCA was seen as a temporary measure to avoid embarrassment. The chickens are coming home to roost, unfortunately.

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