A year ago a small group of us got together, determined to do something about Kirkstall Valley.
For years there has been talk of creating a public park and bringing the mills into use, but nothing has happened. Just look at the size of the green space. It's a hidden jewel in the middle of England's third city.
The small group now has 60 paid up members and is growing fast. We have organised as a Development Trust and have a Board of skilled volunteers and a Development Director who has led on four previous social property developments.
We are working with the University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University, the Centre for Alternative Technology and local community groups to produce a viable education and community scheme.
Paul Chatterton of the University of Leeds School of Geography is leading the charge on establishing a ground breaking Centre for Future Cities.
Our starting point is Abbey Mills (LS5 3HP – next to the Kirkstall Bridge Shopping Park), wholly owned by Leeds City Council. Within it we want to create:
- The first purpose built community facilities in Kirkstall incorporating cafe, events and meeting space with the ambition to have catering for house-bound people, child care and play facilities, council services and library.
- A Centre for Future Cities undertaking research and teaching practical and high level skills for sustainable living, focusing on water, energy, food and housing.
- Environmental education particularly aimed at young people
- Housing in partnership with Leeds Community Homes
- Co-working space and workshop areas for sustainable small businesses
- On site power sourced from the river and solar panels
We will achieve this with £2m Heritage Lottery support and by persuading the Council to transfer the mill to the Trust with the strength of our development plan by the end of 2017
From there it will take about two years of detailed planning and construction work before we open the doors.
To work up our plans we need £40,000 to pay for architects, surveyors and other professionals. This will supplement development money we hope to receive from the Lottery. Our stretch target is £60,000 to give the Trust money to develop the Centre for Future Cities within the mill.