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.