Crowdfund campaign to reclaim historic Leeds mill for community nears its £40,000 target

Campaigners from Kirkstall Valley Development Trust. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Campaigners from Kirkstall Valley Development Trust. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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A bid to take over a crumbling historic mill building for community use has gathered pace, as a crowdfund appeal approaches an initial £40,000 target to put together a business plan.

The Grade II listed Abbey Mills near Kirkstall Abbey consists of a number of buildings dating back to the early 16th Century.

The mills were rebuilt after a fire in 1797.

However the complex has been abandoned for the last decade after print works at the site ended.

Now the Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT), a group of 90 dedicated locals, are spearheading a bid to take over the building for community use.

Under their plans, the mills would get a new triple-layered lease of life, housing community facilities, a ‘Future City’ University research centre and flats .

It’s all part of a wider plan to create a 200-acre “urban park” in the ‘Kirkstall Valley’ area.

The initial fund-raising target of £40,000 is now perilously close, with £38,000 raised in just two months.

Locals are now being urged to make the final push and get the project off the ground in earnest. People have until April 20 to join a community share offer via crowdfunder.co.uk.

Chris Hill, KVDT’s development director, said the Mills - owned by Leeds City Council - had become the first part of the group’s wider ambitions because of the flooding risks in the area.

He said the initial funding would help towards six months of development planning, including initial structural and architectural surveys, as well as supporting a larger grant bid to the Heritage Lottery fund.

“The idea is that by December we will have a really strong business case and plan, that we can put to the council and to Heritage Lottery and the council will pass the mill to us and Heritage will give us grant funding,” he explained.

Adele Rae, community director with the Trust, added: “There’s a great deal of good will from local people.

“But we are missing a hub. We are missing somewhere to work from and there’s a lack for of resources in the area.

“We haven’t got a library, and we haven’t got places where people can come together and provide services.

“For me, it’s about providing something that can support the community, particularly in the light of all the cuts.”