The high-rise former council flats that tower over Keighley are widely regarded as a blot on as landscape. But Arran Bailey sees the beauty in what most see as ugly 1960s architecture and to prove it he has just bought Leylands House and Delph House.
Arran, 29, a property developer and investor from Nottingham, buys to let on a grand scale. His plan is to modernise the 190 flats on Parkwood Rise and let them to young professionals, who he believes can be lured with the promise of affordable rents, contemporary interiors and good transport links.
“I had never been to Keighley before coming to view these flats but you only have to look on a map to see that it is really well placed geographically with good road and rail links. I spent a couple of days up there, had a coffee in the town and checked out the amenities, which are good. It’s also got good brands like Marks and Spencer. I like the place and that’s one of the reasons I decided to invest there,” he says.
He adds that the flats are large compared to new builds in nearby Leeds, plus they have “cracking views” and the rents will be much lower than those in the city, which is a half hour train ride away.
“The apartments will be high specification and targeted at young professionals and that should be a boost to the local economy. I do believe that Keighley could start to gentrify thanks to this scheme. The low property prices and the transport links in the area makes it no brainer,” says Arran.
Leeds-based Headoffice3 is architect, planning consultant and main contractor for the project. It hopes to brighten the exterior of the concrete blocks with coloured render and new balcony panels. There is also talk of turning a former play area into an outdoor gym.
Glen Harding, HeadOffice3’s Residential Project Director, says: “We believe this scheme will bring regeneration and that we will create an environment that will attract young professionals and white collar commuters to the area.”
Whether the revamp will be enough to bring in the bright young things is debatable. The area is not the most desirable part of Keighley.
The most sought-after locations are all on the rural fringe and in the surrounding villages, which include Haworth.
Estate agent Michael Leighton, of Dacre, Son and Hartley’s Keighley office, says: “It will be good to see the flats modernised but I’m not sure whether that will be enough to attract young professionals. This is a working class town but Arran is right in that Keighley does have potential and a great location. On one side we have Leeds and Bradford and on the other is Skipton and the Dales and then there is Haworth just up the road.”
Entrepreneur Aaron, who has made a business out of spotting places with potential, is confident.
“We start work next month and we’ll do one block at a time because we don’t want to flood the market with 190 flats. We should have finished the first block by April next year and then we will start on the next one. I really believe they will breathe new life into Keighley.”
Arran Bailey left school at 16 and made his living as a watch dealer. He diversified into property when terraced houses in Nottingham fell from £70,000 to £40,000 in 2008. He has over 100 houses, a mill conversion and is now taking advantage of the relaxation in permitted development rules to turn offices into flats. He lets everything through his own company, ALB Investments, which also offers property for sale.
“Until now we have concentrated on the Nottingham and Derby areas. Keighley is the first stage in me edging further north. I’m now looking at properties in Leeds and Manchester,” he says.
The property market in Keighley is already picking up, thanks mostly to small-time investors keen to buy two and three bedroom terraced properties. They start at about £40,000, while semi-detached houses, like the one, pictured, on Hainworth Wood Road, can be bought from about £120,000.
“We are seeing a lot more interest in the area, especially from buy-to-let investors. In November last year we had 80 would-be buyers on our mailing list and now we have over 200,” says Michael Leighton.
Aspirational owner occupiers are not as plentiful and former resident Rick Hadley puts that down to a lack of self-confidence.
Rick, who grew up in the town and visits regularly, says: “I love Keighley and I love the idea that it could be gentrified but there needs to be a shift in the attitude of the town and its population.
“The main aspiration that people seem to have is to get out. We need to make people want to stay and I think apartment schemes like the one at Parkwood Rise can help.
“Keighley is surrounded by great countryside and you can get to Leeds in 30 minutes and out to Skipton, the Dales and beyond very easily. It is a great place to be. but it needs to start focusing on the positives and believing in itself.”