Supermarket giant defiant over store’s threat to Mill’s heritage

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PLANS for a large Tesco supermarket in Leeds could lead to the loss of important historic buildings if the scheme is granted permission in its current form, planning officers are warning.

The company says hundreds of jobs will be created by the 24-hour store on the site of the derelict Stonebridge Mills in Farnley. It also wants to convert some disused buildings into flats and apartments.

But council planners have expressed reservations about some of the plans.

A report to the city’s west plans panel, which meets next Thursday, warns that the current plans fall short when it comes to protecting the heritage of the site.

The report also says the supermarket being proposed would be much larger than one previously put forward and agreed.

The previous plan was for a store with net sales floor space of 2,321 square metres but the latest application is for 4,907 square metres.

“It is considered that the development of the much larger supermarket will dominate the site and impact on the setting of the listed buildings,” the report says.

It adds: “The benefits to the listed building complex could be substantial if handled sensitively and comprehensively but at present this is not the case and the proposals coming forward propose additional demolition and only partial reuse of some of the remaining buildings.”

Planning officers say the structural surveys submitted with the plans “do not provide sufficient evidence for the proposed works” and are “very light-touch and do not go into any great detail on the buildings.”

Conservation officers with the council say the plans would see the “unjustified” demolition of important listed buildings, including the former workers’ cottages and meter house.

There are also “strong concerns” from officers about proposals for the boiler house and engine house.

“As these are attached to the buildings identified for residential conversion it is strange to leave these buildings redundant. To secure the long term conservation of these buildings a positive and active reuse of the buildings is required,” the report adds.

Officers have pointed out that proposals for buildings 6-11 on the site are “vague and have no real plan”, adding: “To ensure the long term future a more definite reuse is required, otherwise the peripheral elements of the site could continue to degrade and result in the whole development being compromised.”

In order for the scheme to be successful, it needs a proposed use and scheme for every listed building, including those identified for demolition “or significant justification as to why this cannot be achieved.”

In response to the report’s conclusions, Deborah Hayeems, Tesco corporate affairs manager, said yesterday: “From the very beginning we have recognised the historical importance of Stonebridge Mills – a site that has served Farnley and Wortley for over 200 years.

“We are proposing to convert the main grade II listed mill buildings into affordable flats and retain a majority of the workshop buildings to actively serve these new homes.

“To retain the character of the site, we are also proposing to keep the mill chimney, water tower, mill pond and workers’ cottages as further housing.

“Our plans do include the demolition of a small number of outlying buildings – some of which are in a poor condition and beyond sustainable repair – to allow us to include flood mitigation work as part of our investment in the local area.

“Now that we have submitted our planning application to Leeds City Council we will continue discussions with them to ensure we can bring this derelict mill back into active use and create 400 jobs for local people through our new supermarket.”

Councillors will be told next week that the plans are not yet ready to be determined.