£1.5m dock deal looks to create top draw

Have your say

THE company which helped to revive Manchester’s commercial centre plans to bring jobs and investment to one of Yorkshire’s biggest waterfront developments.

Clarence Dock in Leeds has been bought by property developer Allied London which is aiming to complete its transformation into a valued destination in the city.

It is understood the company, which developed Manchester’s Spinningfields district, has paid around £1.5m for the lease on Clarence Dock, which has struggled to attract retailers since it opened three years ago.

The 150-year head lease on the 1.2m sq ft scheme was bought from its previous owners, Lend Lease.

Michael Ingall, the chief executive of Allied London, said he wanted Clarence Dock to become a place of culture with an added sense of community and hopes to “soften up” its appearance by using landscaping and water-side attractions.

He said Clarence Dock could resemble a much larger version of Brewery Wharf, a thriving mixed-use scheme which is based nearby.

“The commercial element (of Clarence Dock) has never really worked,” he added. “Of the 35 shops there, 16 have never been occupied. What our market research is telling us is that there is an affluent and ambitious community right on its doorstep.”

Mr Ingall said he was seeking “a community-based solution” which could lead to the opening of more restaurants and cafes on the site. And although he does not want to turn it into an office park, he believes there is also the potential for small businesses to move in to the area.

Clarence Dock was officially opened on October 11, 2008. Three years on, virtually all of the shops have gone, and the remaining businesses are struggling to find customers. Recent departures have included the Aspecto clothes store, which closed down and moved to Leeds city centre.

Last month, Roy Ramm, an executive director of London Clubs International, which owns the Alea Casino on Clarence Dock, said: “Clarence Dock feels like a forgotten part of the city at the moment.The only thing that’s missing here is the tumbleweed.”

Kevin Grady, the director of Leeds Civic Trust, said yesterday: “The trust welcomes the fact that a new look will be taken at the future of Clarence Dock under new ownership and the trust will be delighted to have discussions with Allied London about their plans.

“Clearly, the attempt to make Clarence Dock a major retail destination has been a failure, probably because it is too far from the city centre shopping area to have a significant passing trade. Potential shoppers were put off by the absence of adequate low cost parking.

“Only a major sustained promotional campaign and events programme might have saved the shops and restaurants. We certainly do not want it become an office park. We hope that the new owner will be able to produce a variety of uses for the retail units, in addition to office use, which would add to the vitality of the area.

“We would also like the re to be a major review of the public realm to make it much more attractive. It certainly needs softening with more trees, grass and planting and we would like to see more family-friendly facilities.”

Comment: Page 14.