Kirkstall Mills Executive Summary
Abbey Mills and St Annís Mills in Kirkstall are two historic industrial buildings on the banks of the River Aire. Abbey Mills dates back to medieval times, and is grade 2 listed. St Annís Mills was founded as a water mill around 1776 but is not presently listed. Abbey Mills was repeatedly damaged by fire, and most of the surviving buildings on both sites date from around 1835. The main range at St Annís Mills uses fireproof brick arch construction and may have been one of the earliest "purpose built" steam mills in the area.
Both sites were acquired by the Council between 1965 Ė 1970 as public open space for a Kirkstall riverside park, but continued in industrial use until land assembly was complete. The park proposal did not progress after local government reorganisation in 1974, and both mills became part of the Councilís light industrial portfolio.
In early 2003 the Leeds City Council Development Department conceived of a plan to sell Abbey Mills for residential development. This "stand alone" proposal subsequently developed into a scheme to re-invest the proceeds in St Annís Mills, which is currently open for public consultation. Although superficially attractive, there are very serious problems with this plan.
- There are some catastrophic arithmetic errors in the Councilís calculations and the scheme is unlikely to deliver the benefits claimed in the public consultation brochure. An external audit inquiry is in progress.
- The proposed new access road for Abbey Mills cannot meet local or national highway safety standards. The new junction would be on the inside of a blind corner, with very poor visibility. There may be pressure to close off streets in the ďNormansĒ to reduce the risk of accidents if this scheme goes ahead.
- Parts of the Grade 2 listed Abbey Mills would be demolished, and numerous mature trees bordering Kirkstall Abbey Park cut down for the development. The new access road and associated embankment would look very ugly.
- St Annís Mills would not be developed for industrial use. It would become very expensive "serviced offices", with rents far beyond the means of many local companies. Far from enhancing the local environment, this scheme would seriously damage the new Kirkstall Valley Park.
- These proposals might be a "Trojan Horse", which could coincidentally provide two new access roads serving an enormous 50 acre mixed development scheme for the whole of central Kirkstall, which is still under wraps.
- The Councilís publicity brochure is inaccurate and does not meet government guidelines for public information and consultation, nor the Councilís own compact signed with the voluntary sector. These recommend a 3 month consultation period, not 2 weeks, where everybody can take part. These guidelines also say that all the options should be examined, not just the Councilís favoured scheme.
- There is a viable alternative proposal to use St Annís Mills for a "Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Centre" in partnership with the Probation Service. The Mill would become the construction centre for the Kirkstall Valley Park, and during the course of this would be refurbished for community use, possibly with a Natural History function.