Artisan Development


Kirkstall District Centre development site

(Contours at 5m intervals. The Kwik Save unit is now occupied by Harvard Mills. The western boundary of the current application site does not include Leeds PSA Club and is about 40m from Commercial Road.)

Quick Summary

Artisan want to construct a largely residential development on a 5.9 acre derelict site within the Kirkstall District Centre on the north west slope of Kirkstall Hill. In total they intend to build 263 residential units with a gross value over £54 million. Part of the site belongs to Leeds City Council, who have agreed to sell their land to Artisan if they achieve a satisfactory planning consent.

Artisan consulted the public in late 2018 / early 2019, and claimed that their scheme would be fully compliant with Leeds Core Strategy. This requires 15% affordable housing units and about £350,000 for off-site greenspace contributions. Concerns were expressed about traffic congestion, residents' parking and the size and massing of the buildings, but otherwise Artisan received a generally favourable response. They submitted their planning application 19/01666 in March 2019.

In August 2019 Cushman and Wakefield (consultants acting for Artisan) submitted an Economic Viability Assessment (EVA) to the Council. This document claims that Artisan's proposed development is completely non-viable and would require a negative land value before it could proceed. Council planning officers referred the report to the District Valuer (DV) for critical examination, but for unknown reasons they agreed that some of the findings would be confidential. This is contrary to national planning guidance for viability assessments, which should be conducted in public.

The City Plans Panel considered the application on 21 November 2019 after making a site visit. This was not a full determination but an opportunity to raise matters that needed debate. Cllr Illingworth spoke against the proposals, reflecting an agreed position among the Kirkstall councillors.

Artisan will not meet the Kirkstall councillors or undertake further public consultation. They are relying on the previous welcome for their fully compliant scheme, which is no longer on the table, and pushing for a quick decision by the City Plans Panel before Kirkstall residents can get their act together. There is a danger that the Plans Panel may decide that this is the best deal we are likely to get. We urgently need more emails and letters of objection to the downgraded, non-compliant plans.

How to object

Please email planning@leeds.gov.uk to make an objection. Don’t forget to include the planning application number 19/01666 which identifies the site. Please include your full name and street address, to prove that you are a real person, not a computer ‘bot’.

You can complain that the proposals no longer comply with Leeds Core Strategy. Point to the lack of greenspace and affordable housing. Say that public consultation has been inadequate, and that information from the developer has been misleading. You could add that the proposed highway changes are inadequate and the proposals will increase congestion at peak times, when the Council already expects a 20% traffic increase from Kirkstall Forge.

People could also complain about a serious lack of transparency about this application on the Council’s side. Please see our detailed account below. They should ask why the Council has not followed the transparency guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework.

Check the facts

Leeds City Council maintains multiple websites. The main one is leeds.gov.uk. This has links to two secondary websites: publicaccess.leeds.gov.uk (which deals with planning applications) and democracy.leeds.gov.uk (which deals with committee decisions). You can click the links within this paragraph to go directly to these sites. These websites provide the public records of the Council's decisions.

The Public Access server has details of the all the plans and reports that make up each planning application, and the Council’s response. When using this software, scroll down to the bottom of the first page, type or paste the planning application number into the search box, and then click the blue Search button to locate the data. Click on 'documents' to see all the plans and reports. You can view individual documents by clicking the little icons in the right hand column, or you can tick the left hand checkboxes to download multiple documents in batches up to 25 at a time.

Please be aware that this is a huge planning application, with hundreds of documents and late amendments to the plans. They are not usually as complicated as this one. Last minute changes make things needlessly difficult for the public.

The documents list for the Artisan application includes two copies of the District Valuer’s report with slightly different names. One called 'ADD . VIABILITY REPORT BY THE DISTRICT VALUER' was published on 20 Nov 2019, and the second 'DVS REVIEW OF VIABILITY REPORT' was published on 20 Dec 2019. They appear to be identical. They have both been redacted and most of the numbers have been blacked out. It is also possible to view the 'CITY PLANS PANEL COMMITTEE REPORT 21/11/19' which is an excellent summary of the Artisan proposals, but it doesn’t include the District Valuer’s report.

The DV accepts that the Kirkstall site is steeply sloping and consequently more difficult to develop, though not as difficult as Artisan claimed in their EVA. He therefore recommends partial compliance with the Core Strategy. At this point one might expect some robust but public negotiations between Artisan, Leeds City Council and the DV, looking for savings that might improve compliance with Leeds Core Strategy. Unfortunately the DV took extended leave shortly after the Panel meeting, which has made it difficult to discuss his work. This unforeseen snag has not yet been resolved.

Meanwhile a bizarre problem has arisen in relation to the DV's report. LCC planning officers are adamant that the DV report is confidential, and will only release a version that is so heavily redacted as to be completely useless. However the City Plans Panel meeting on 21 November 2019 that discussed the DV report was conducted in public (as recommended by current government guidance) the DV report was not marked "confidential" and there was no resolution to exclude the Press and Public. The Council's governance staff have therefore published the entire DV report on their "democracy" website, in accordance with normal practice. Providing they know where to look, the full, unredacted DV report has been freely available for anybody to download for several months!

The Democracy server has details of the City Centre Plans Panel meeting on 21 November 2019. Full navigation instructions are included below, but to save time just click this link: Development at Kirkstall Hill, Leeds 5 - Viability Report which will take you straight there. This time the whole of the District Valuer’s report is provided, completely intact. All the numbers can be read. Check the header to confirm that it forms part of the Council’s Public Document Pack.

The DV's report depends upon a comparison between Kirkstall District Centre and the "Flaunt" residential development in Little London and Woodhouse Ward. Flaunt is located on Holts Crest Way, between the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal, near Oddy's Lock. It is surrounded by a regenerating industrial wasteland. It is far from certain that this is an appropriate comparator for the Kirkstall District Centre site, and a poor choice here would affect the viability assessment. Unfortunately it has not been possible to discuss this because (1) the DV has been on leave, and (2) the general difficulties over access to his report.

It seems that the Council’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Public Access is serving a redacted report, but Democracy provides the Full Monty. Democracy has the correct approach. Government planning guidance requires these documents to be published, and Leeds committee clerks have done exactly what the law requires. These documents have been freely available to the public for over nine weeks, but there are no signs yet of the sky falling in. Please hang on your downloaded copies, just in case somebody wants to put this genie back in the bottle.

Navigating Democracy

It is useful to know how to navigate this site. There is a free-text / keyword search facility, but this is poor and the results may be listed in a perverse order. If you can guess which committee took the decision and the approximate date then searches become very easy:

  1. Point your browser to http://democracy.leeds.gov.uk (you can click this link to get started)
  2. You should land on a page headed Meetings, agendas and minutes
  3. Click on Browse the agenda/minutes You should land on a page headed Browse meetings
  4. Click on City Plans Panel (at the top of the list) You should land on the City Plans Panel page
  5. Click the link for 21 Nov 2019 1.30 pm You should land on the 21 November page
  6. Click the sixth bullet point: Development at Kirkstall Hill, Leeds 5 - Viability Report
  7. The report should download automatically from the server. It is a PDF 838 KB. Save the file.

Planning History

The first supermarket on Kirkstall Lane was a Leeds City Council sponsored scheme in the late 1970's. This development was fatally undermined by Wm Morrisons planning consent near Bridge Road in 1999. There was no way that a small local supermarket with 160 parking spaces and constricted access could compete with a much newer and larger retail outlet with over 600 parking spaces on the valley floor. The adjacent site to the east of the Kwik Save supermarket was a former tannery that was converted into a pharmaceutical printing works. This factory has been demolished and cleared for redevelopment.

The land is steeply sloping, which creates design problems and opportunities, and increases costs. After the failure of the Kwik Save supermarket, most of the land was acquired by Espalier, who promoted a mixed use scheme. In addition to residential and some fairly limited retail development, we hoped to have a local medical facility specialising in outpatient procedures, a library and other Leeds City Council facilities on the site.

Unfortunately, there were problems assembling all these components at the same time, and there are major traffic problems caused by congestion on the A65 and the traffic generated by the Morrisons development. Despite additional traffic signals at both ends of Beecroft Street, it proved very difficult to devise a highway solution that works. The Council, Health Service and the developer worked on an outline planning application 24/572/05/OT for several years but ultimately failed to produce a practical scheme.

Link to the report in the Yorkshire Evening Post 13 April 2007

Download the Report to the Plans Panel for 19 April 2007.

The site was subsequently acquired by Tesco, who intended to build a hypermarket, but they also faced the same challenges of producing a commercially viable scheme on a sloping site, with considerable traffic problems. Tesco's planning application was withdrawn, and they subsequently struggled to find a buyer for their land. The area was zoned for mixed development in the current site allocations plan.

Last updated 04 February 2020 at 10:42. Back to the top

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