A project to transform one of Leeds’ most important heritage sites could be set for a major funding boost thanks to a Lottery funded project.
Plans to revitalise the First White Cloth Hall were approved by the City Plans Panel earlier this month and would see the Grade II* Listed hall’s west wing restored, a new covered courtyard with atrium built, and a new shopfront put in place.
The building has fallen into severe disrepair over the years and the council are now working alongside owners, developers, Historic England, and the Heritage Lottery Fund for almost a decade in an effort to save it.
Now members of the council’s executive board will be asked to approve a potential grant of up to £500,000 towards the cost of revitalising the former cloth hall as part of the Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).
Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “It has taken a great deal of creativity and determination to get to this point but finally we are on the verge of seeing this important and historic building brought back into use in a way which befits its status as one of our city’s key heritage assets.
“The First White Cloth Hall can and should be a focal point for the whole of Lower Kirkgate and the catalyst for the long-term transformation of the area into a vibrant and contemporary hub which continues to attract new business and footfall whilst also paying tribute to its unique culture and tradition.
“The Lower Kirkgate THI has already seen some exceptional progress made towards that goal and this next step will be an absolutely pivotal one in the journey towards one of our city’s oldest streets taking its rightful place in 21st century Leeds.”
The First White Cloth Hall was built in 1711 and listed by English Heritage in 1983 following its ‘rediscovery’ as the earliest surviving cloth hall and in recognition of its historic importance to the economic history of the region and the nation.
The THI, which sees grant funding awarded to developers looking to bring buildings on Leeds’s oldest street back into use, would support the plans by the building’s new owners Rushbond.
A total of £1.5m was awarded to the THI project from the Heritage Lottery Fund, matched with £668k public funding.
The initiative has already seen a number of historic buildings given a new lease of life through traditional reinstatement and repair.
This includes 92 Kirkgate, a former 18th Century cloth merchant’s house, which is now a traditional Yorkshire café, and its neighbour, 93 Kirkgate, which has become a café, bar and record shop.
90 Kirkgate is also in the final stages of a grant-aided repair scheme.
Other owners are currently developing plans of their own and applying for grants.
At a meeting next week, members of the executive board will be asked to approve a grant of up to £500,000 towards the First White Cloth hall project.
They will also receive a progress report on the Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative.
Members will also be asked to reaffirm the council’s willingness to use compulsory purchase powers if needed to ensure the THI progresses, as agreed at a previous meeting in 2016.
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