Allders - BHS


In 2003 the Allders chain of department stores was bought by the Scarlett Retail Group - a consortium lead by property group Minerva. In 2004 the new owners submitted a planning application 24/413/04/FU for the demolition and redevelopment of the Bridge Road store and the erection of 9 retail units and three A3 food and drink units. In 2005 this company encountered financial difficulties and Allders stores throughout the country were sold or closed down. The Allders site in Kirkstall was acquired by British Home Stores, who continued trading and resumed work on the existing planning application.

The new units facing Bridge Road would have a traditional "high street" appearance which has met with general approval. The "retail sheds" at the rear have attacted considerable adverse comment about their ugly, monotonous and generally uninspiring design. They are considerably higher than the largely single storey units to the rear of the existing site. The developer maintains that the new buildings will nevertheless be screened by trees and will be scarcely visible from Kirkstall Abbey, but they are very intrusive in relation to the goitside walk and the grade 2 listed Abbey Mills. Both the car park and the buildings would be illuminated at night, making them far more prominent than the low profile units that they replace.

Landscape Plan - click here to download a higher resolution version.

On 18 May 2006 the Plans (West) Panel voted against their officers' recommendation, and decided to refuse application 24/413/04/FU. BHS lodged an appeal against refusal APP/N4720/A/07/2038529 with the Planning Inspectorate on 16 February 2007 and a Public Inquiry took place from 19th - 22nd February 2008 in Leeds Civic Hall. Leeds City Council gave two grounds for refusal, and defended these at the Inquiry:

  1. The local planning authority considers that the redevelopment of this site for purely retail development fails to provide a sufficient mix of uses and therefore an integrated town centre on a significant site within the S2 centre and therefore is contrary to the thrust of national guidance in PPS6 and its companion document ‘Planning for Town Centres: Guidance on Design and Implementation Tools’ and Policies S2 and S3 of the adopted Unitary Development Plan.

  2. The local planning authority further considers that the larger retail units to the rear of the site by reason of their siting, design and layout and dominance of car parking fail to provide a well designed town centre layout and sense of place and do not relate well to their setting or context with regard to the river or the abbey grounds contrary to the thrust of national advice in PPS1, PPS6 and the companion document ‘Planning for Town Centres: Guidance on design and Implementation Tools’ and Policies N12; N13; N19; BD2; and LD1 of the adopted Unitary development plan.

It should be noted that Leeds City Council did not oppose the 2004 application on highway grounds, and consequently did not contest highway issues at the Public Inquiry. It has subsequently become obvious that there is significant conflict between the Kirkstall District Centre development and the proposals at Bridge Road, to the extent that the Council is raising highway objections to more recent applications.

Cllr John Illingworth was granted "Rule 6 Status" to speak on behalf of Kirkstall Valley Community Association (KVCA), mainly about traffic and flooding issues. Councillor Liz Minkin also gave evidence on the generally hideous appearance of the proposed buildings and related planning matters. This Public Inquiry considered only the original 2004 planning application. In the meantime BHS have submitted a further planning application 07/04767 and recently appealed on this as well, but the two appeals are considered separately.

Documents submitted by the appellants.

The developers are represented by our old friends Montagu Evans, veterans of previous encounters with Kirkstall residents since 1987 over the green belt boundary and the southern approach to Kirkstall Abbey. Part of their strategy seems to bury us in paper: their bundle of evidence on highway issues alone is 36mm thick, but that is only 10% of their full submission. The Planning Inspectorate sent us the entire BHS case by email – a whopping 82MB of files containing about 2000 pages of text and drawings. A paper copy arrived by post. It weighed 5.13kg and required a special delivery. Kirkstall councillors had less than 4 weeks to read this stuff and get their response together.

The proposals increase the total floor area from 12,730 sqm to 16,620 sqm and are likely operate more intensively than the old BHS store which was a converted factory and warehouse. This will increase traffic on Bridge Road at weekends and weekday evenings. A new set of traffic signals will be added on Bridge Road between the Bridge Inn and the BHS car park, so that customers’ vehicles can leave the store.

New BHS exit location

Significant changes are also planned to traffic movements through the main Kirkstall junction with the A65 Abbey Road and also on Savins Mill Way outside Morrison’s supermarket. It will no longer be possible for cars to turn right from Commercial Road into Kirkstall Lane – they must go round Savins Mill Way and turn right into Bridge Road. The proposed road layout is marked in green on the diagram below. You can download the original drawings in PDF format if you prefer.

Extract from the planning application (showing the proposed entrance and exit design).

At first sight, part of these proposals might be acceptable with additional pedestrian crossings and new facilities all round, but when you get down to detail some serious questions should be asked. The developer's computer models show traffic backing up on many approach roads at peak times, with queues of 20 to 30 vehicles on the short stretch of Wyther Lane outside Hollybush Farm. Clearly these cars would not all fit into the available space, which can only hold about five vehicles in each direction. This is likely to result in vehicles queueing across junctions, with further delays and congestion for everybody else.

Wyther Lane with Kirkstall Brewery behind.

The present scheme is significantly worse for cyclists, with the introduction of a pinch point opposite the new BHS exit where cyclists can be trapped against the kerb. There are no cycle lanes, or advance stop lines at the new junction, despite the fact that Bridge Road is a designated cycle route where the river bridges have been upgraded to carry 44 tonne heavy goods vehicles. This isn't good, and does not comply with our Local Transport Plans. These problems were identified by the council's cycling officer in 2004, but ignored by the highway design engineers.

Click here to download the Stage 1 Safety Audit including the responses from the developer and the LCC cycling officers. This is supposed to be one of the council's flagship cycling routes, linking the student accommodation at Kirkstall Brewery with the teaching facilities at Beckett Park. Despite all the fine words in the council's sustainable development and transport strategies, when push comes to shove it seems that car capacity wins every time.

The Kirkstall councillors argued that new shops are generally welcome, but the design must be greatly improved and there are limits to the number of vehicles that the area can handle. It is also important to provide for pedestrians and cyclists, and to make sure that buses get through and run to time. We hope this policy has your support. BHS have been trying to shave a few seconds off the "green man" time on the pedestrian crossings, and to make things significantly worse for cyclists in order to get more cars into and out of their site. We are telling them that this is not "sustainable development", that shortening pedestrian crossing times make life difficult for disabled people, and that overall, it will not do.

Eastern elevation of the proposed retail units as seen from Abbey Mills.

Click here to download the KVCA Proof of Evidence for the Public Inquiry. Please note that our evidence refered to the TRANSYT computer model submitted with the original planning application in 2004. This was all we had available. BHS submitted new computer models with their own Proof of Evidence in January 2008, but we could not discuss these in our submission, because we had not yet seen them. The developer's agent claimed that the road network could easily accommodate all the traffic from the new BHS store. It was soon apparent that their new model contained some very serious errors. It included physically unrealistic traffic queues, where the numbers of queueing vehicles could not be fitted onto the available road space. It also omitted the proposed traffic signals on Beecroft street, and ignored most of the additional vehicles expected from the redevelopment of the former Kwik Save site. These features were included in the base model prepared by the Council's highway officers in 2006, but the BHS team left them out.

We therefore prepared a further computer model in February 2008 containing the various features that were missing from the BHS version. We also imposed constraints on the internal traffic queues to restrict them to a more reasonable length. Our study showed that the Kirkstall network is already saturated with cars, so that extra traffic from the BHS store would mean increased delays for everybody else. We submitted this updated traffic model during the Public Inquiry, with a Supplementary Proof of Evidence, explaining what we had done.

We currently await the Inspector's decision. It remains to be seen how much weight he will attach to our traffic figures. The Council offered no highway evidence, although it could easily have done so. Despite valiant efforts by individual planning officers, who were plainly doing their best, the Council did not put a very strong case to the Inquiry. It showed an extraordinary tendency to "pull its punches" for reasons that we find hard to comprehend. The buildings at the rear of the development are little more than industrial sheds, which will dominate the goitside walk and the grade 2 listed Abbey Mills on the southern approach to Kirkstall Abbey. The Council's written evidence scarcely mentions these issues, and when the Council's landscape witness said that the proposals would damage the Kirkstall Abbey conservation area, his evidence was repudiated by the Council's barrister!

Existing store, seen from the Conservation Area.   The new buildings would be closer and twice as high.

We find this last action completely inexplicable. The proposed car park and buildings would be plainly visible from the conservation area. They would be brightly lit, and the new buildings are twice the size and much more prominent than the existing buildings shown in the photograph above. The Council's landscape witness was giving his professional opinion, and it is clear from the photograph, which was taken from inside the conservation area, that he was telling the truth.

Last updated 29 November 2008 at 20:54. Back to the top

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Promoted by John Illingworth, 37 Kirkwood Way, Leeds LS16 7EU