Leeds – council watchdog to hear official response to Burberry deal collapse

Temple Mills, Leeds (2)

The fall-out from international fashion giant Burberry’s withdrawal from a proposed deal to build a new factory in south Leeds is going to get a public airing next week.

One of Leeds City Council’s watchdog committees has called on a senior officer to come and explain the council’s response to the move and its implications at a meeting a week tomorrow (Wednesday, 26th July).

No prizes for guessing what the councillors on the committee are going to want to find out from Martin Farrington, the Director of City Development.

Here’s a list of the likely questions he’ll get, with the likely answers in brackets:

  • Q: What went wrong with the deal? (A: Burberry, for their own reasons, couldn’t commit to spending £x million restoring Leeds’ greatest industrial monument, Temple Works, on top of the £50m they’d planned to spend on the new factory. But we’re still good friends.)
  • Q: What happens with the factory plans now? (A: That’s up to Burberry. If they still want to build on the land they’ve bought in the area, we’ll help them if we can. Ditto if they fancy doing it elsewhere in Leeds. For the moment we don’t know. But we’re still good friends.)
  • Q: What are the implications for the council’s ambitious plans to develop the “South Bank” area of Leeds? Wasn’t the Burberry factory an invaluable endorsement that was going to have a “transformational impact” on that part of the city? (A: That’ll all be fine. We’ve got X, Y and Z in the pipeline … and The Tetley … and here’s HS2 coming!)
  • Q: What happens to Temple Works now? How are you going to stop it falling down? (A: We’re on the case. Can’t share our thoughts with you at the mo. No more questions? See you.)


Whether Burberry end up doing any more in Leeds after deciding recently to relocate their business services operation here – a “token offering“, according to the Yorkshire Post – is anyone’s guess and a bit of a sideshow. On past form, no-one should be holding their breath.

Temple Works is another matter. It’s now back to where it was 10 years or so ago (minus the alternative fun stuff that stopped while Burberry had its long think). Back then, restoring the grand, but crumbling, Grade-1 former flax mill was already being costed at £20million.

Who’s got the cash and the interest and could make it pay as a working building? Some think it’s not worth the bother.

In a dream I once saw it as Leeds’ answer to those old Berlin railway goods yards, thriving home to autonomous spaces for creativity, funky tat stalls, drinking dens and dancing palaces.

But Leeds isn’t Berlin. And even in Berlin those old goods-yards-turned-alternative-spaces are falling into the hands of property developers. And it was only a dream.






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5 Responses to Leeds – council watchdog to hear official response to Burberry deal collapse

  1. Susan Williamson says:

    Ummmm. Just to be clear – once more – Temple Works (the correct name for the site, which is three buildings,Temple Mill being one of them) was never going to be redeveloped as a manufacturing plant, ref the article’s link to Aisha Iqbal. As the director of the “fun stuff” for 9 years, l’d also like to point out that we had a significant education, heritage, cultural development and business start-up programme over and above the film, location hire, private hire and commercial cultural use – almost all of it based on revenue (not external funding), barter, cooperation and voluntarism. We didn’t do tats… though 50% of “us” were indeed tattooed. Phil Kirby’s fondly illustrated farewell (your link) to Temple Works does tend to focus on the more luridly visual elements of our (invited) occupation… but was not representative of the daily life beneath the punk gloss. We developed a detailed and tested business plan for the way forward as a successful national cultural venue based on 9 years of research and proof of concept which – with the right investment partner – would have seen the venue making a profit within 5 years. The business plan was informed and aided by social investment banking experts (provided as a pilot study by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust) and other commercial cultural venues (including London’s ridiculously successful Shunt Lounge): not too bad for a bunch of cultural yahoos! The way forward is neither necessarily developer-led, nor Council or heritage body-led; nor is it necessarily as an enclosed mausoleum of engineering marvels…

    • Cheers, Susan. I was going to make a point of correcting all the nonsense in the local papers about how the factory was going to be in the Mill, but then I thought “pffft, nobody cares”. Given that all the other plans have gone down the Swannee, maybe it’s time for you to put that business plan of yours out into the open so it can garner what support it can. (p.s. by ‘tat’ i meant the kind of cheap stuff they sell in markets).

    • C Green says:

      Here here Susan! Bout time the council realised what it has got already instead of always trying to chase the next shiny bling bling glamour projects.

  2. Dan says:

    “We’re on the case. Can’t share our thoughts with you at the mo. No more questions? See you.”
    This from the Director of City Development?!
    My confidence runneth over.

  3. C Green says:

    We always knew Burberry wouldn’t restore Temple Works but I dare say that Mr F will still be seeking the demolition of the Commercial pub to accommodate Burberry on the south site. Such a shame with it being the last domestic building in Holbeck AND it has a blue plaque!

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