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We hope to incorporate many of the elements listed below, starting with the easy ones, and including others over a five to fifteen year period. This should not be seen as an exhaustive list, nor would the loss or failure of several elements prejudice the entire project. Some components could be based on public - private sector partnerships, for example golf, horse riding and canal activities. We would use a mixture of volunteer labour, students, specialist contractors and community service orders administered by the Probation Service. We hope to use design services provided by local Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) Institutions, for example the Leeds University Engineering Schools, Leeds Metropolitan University Landscape Design and Planning courses and Leeds FE College courses. The works would incorporate a training element in partnership with the Leeds FE colleges, directed particularly towards alternatives to prison and the resettlement of offenders.

  1. Enhanced Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Centre at St Ann's Mills
  2. Flower, fruit and vegetable production on Burley Mills allotments
  3. Supervised adventure playground at "Dobbie Row"
  4. Enhanced Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve
  5. Stables and horse riding between the railway and the canal
  6. White water canoe training course
  7. Riverside walks and cycle tracks
  8. Armley - Kirkstall footbridge
  9. Completion of missing links in the footpath network
  10. Benjamin Gott's suspension bridge near Burley Mills
  11. Industrial archaeology at St Ann's Mills
  12. Natural history museum and visitor centre at St Annís Mills
  13. Narrow gauge tourist rail link along the valley

Park boundary

The proposed park extends across the Kirkstall Valley from Stanningley Road to Kirkstall Road, and includes both the River Aire and the Leeds Ė Liverpool Canal. The approximate boundaries are shown on the map below, but these might be extended up the valley to the North West in order to link to Bramley Fall Park, Kirkstall Forge and the Nature Reserve at Newlay. The area of interest includes all the existing Gottís and Armley Parks in West Leeds, with proposed additions on the North East side of the Leeds Liverpool Canal that would more than double the area of land accessible to the public. The entire scheme would cover about 150 hectares below Bridge Road, and would have added importance because of its close proximity to Leeds city centre. It would represent the most significant addition to our parks and public open spaces for more than 80 years.

Map showing the Kirkstall Valley Park proposals

Left arrow pointing to the image title. Click each title to load a larger image, or tab through the document and press any key to load each high resolution version. Click each title to load a larger image.

Proposals map Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Leeds City Council LA07621X2003

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1) Community Punishment Scheme

Construction of the new park will form part of an Unpaid Work Scheme in partnership with the West Yorkshire Probation Service. (This was previously known as "Enhanced Community Punishment" but the essence of the proposal remains the same.) Minor criminals will spend part of their punishment constructing the new park, but this will also include a training element to impart work skills and raise self-esteem, which will be designed to reduce their likelihood of reoffending.

At present it costs about £27,500 per year to keep one offender in prison, but a high proportion of those imprisoned reoffend soon after their release. There is no consensus about which treatments are most successful, although community punishment is clearly more cost-effective for those committing less serious crimes. Overcrowded prisons make it almost impossible to provide effective treatment for criminals who receive a custodial sentence.

St Ann's Mills would provide a builder's yard and garage for deliveries and construction work, toilets, washing and eating facilties, and indoor training space for offenders taking part in the program. It would include a small office space for administrative work. The accommodation is basic, but fit for the intended purpose. The building would be completely refurbished as part of the community punishment scheme, and would eventually be available for community use as a visitor / interpretation centre, and / or use by the canoe club in conjunction with the white water training course.

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2) Flower, fruit and vegetable production

Trainees undergoing Enhanced Community Punishment would be supervised by the probation service, working on the grade one agricultural land at the Burley Mills Allotments. The outputs from this scheme would be directed towards elderly care and disabled services, and also other voluntary sector schemes for homeless people. They could also be sold to generate income for the new park, or used by the proposed organic restaurant at St Ann's mills. The various other existing agricultural uses would continue for the time being, but would be reviewed when the existing tenants retire. It is important to protect this valuable natural resource from irreversible damage or built development. It is the best agricultural land in the Leeds Metropolitan District.

Photographs of allotment crops

 
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3) Supervised adventure playground

This would be constructed alongside Kirkstall Road, using naturally regenerated land with limited ecological and agricultural value. This use already has a valid planning consent 87/26/401 granted to Leeds City Council Leisure Services, which was started in 1988 but not progressed. We anticipate that ďPlayworkĒ staff and students from Leeds Metropolitan University would be closely involved in this initiative.

Photograph of the proposed adventure playground

This land apparently has a "high value" frontage onto Kirkstall Road, but it has remained undeveloped because of site abnormals. It formerly comprised a row of 18th century cottages, which were later converted into piggeries and eventually into a municipal waste tip. Although the tip was sealed and topsoiled in the 1960s, the ground underneath is potentially contaminated and it would not support foundation loads. There is also a weak Victorian brick sewer deep beneath the site, which would require expensive diversion into the main Kirkstall Road sewer before any major built development took place. The whole site is now covered in mature trees, with safe, controlled waters in Burley Mill Goit to the rear.

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4) Enhanced Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve

The reserve would be extended to span the River Aire, incorporating additional land on the Kirkstall side. Ultimately a visitor / interpretation centre would be added at St Ann's Mills. Not many people are aware that we have deer and kingfishers only a mile from Leeds City Centre, or appreciate the rich fauna and flora developing along our recently cleaned river. There is a balance to be struck between public access and protecting biodiversity, and the reserve will need an effective local management committee.

Photograph of Burley Mills weir, taken from the Nature Reserve island

The Nature Reserve currently belongs to National Grid Transco, but it is managed under licence by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT). The original 1993 endowment from the Leeds Development Corporation has been exhausted, so there are no paid staff on site and YWT can only afford to carry out basic maintenance. Work with local schools has ceased, and its resumption will be a priority for the new park management committee. Nevertheless the reserve is still in fairly good condition, without significant vandal damage.

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5) Horse riding

A training centre with stables would be established on land between the railway and the canal, in partnership with Park Lane College and a network of new bridle paths and cycleways developed up the river valley towards Kirkstall Forge and the Rodley Nature Reserve. There is an opportunity here to open these pursuits to children (and adults) from the inner-city area.

Proposed horse riding centre

One reason to prefer this site for horses is that it is possible to reach open country via the canal towpath without crossing any major roads. It would be relatively easy to achieve pedestrian access to the youth facilities in the Armley "Lazer Centre" by rebuilding an earlier canal footbridge, that is marked on the footpath proposals map below.

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6) Canoeing

Many canoeists already use this area, and Leeds Canoe Club are based in Kirkstall. We aim to considerably expand the sporting and recreational activities on the River Aire, and to provide opportunities for disadvantaged and socially excluded young people. Improved canoe facilities could be developed from the existing network of mill goits and weirs, although there are some significant practical issues to overcome. Several weirs are grade 2 listed, and the water courses are not always in the most convenient place. Nevertheless it should be possible to develop a "white water" training facility in the Kirkstall Valley.

Photograph of the weir at Saint Ann's Mills

Documents to download: 4.7MB A Detailed and Critical Analysis of the Kirkstall Valley Park White-Water Canoe Course Proposals by Emma Waterhouse May 2004. A report to Leeds City Council. (Microsoft Word)

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7) Riverside walks and cycle tracks

New routes suitable for pedestrians, cyclists and (occasionally) horses would be constructed both along and across the valley, in conjunction with SUSTRANS. These would be integrated into a much larger sustainable transport system along the Aire Valley extending from the open country to the new commercial development under construction in the city centre.

Cycleway and footpath proposals map

Route map Crown copyright. All rights reserved. Leeds City Council LA07621X2003

The land in Gott's Park and Armley Park is already open to the public, but its value would be greatly enhanced by improved access to the river and the canal, which is limited to a single route along Redcote Lane at present. A series of footbridges would be required to bring this network to fruition, and the individual elements are described in greater detail below.

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8) Armley - Kirkstall footbridge

During the winter of 2003 final year students from the Leeds University Civil Engineering School produced some initial designs for this footbridge as part of their degree scheme. The winning team received a small prize from National Grid Transco. These projects included an Environmental Assessment and consultation with local residents via the Leeds City Council Community Involvement Teams.

Proposed site for the Armley - Kirkstall footbridge

It is estimated that a footbridge would cost about £250,000. It would greatly improve public access to the Nature Reserve, and was included in the orignal 1987 designs.

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9) Missing links

Numerous other footpath and access improvements are envisaged throughout the valley. In 2005 we hope that a new cohort of Leeds University Civil Engineering students will integrate the proposed canoe course with the footpath and cycle route along the steeply sloping river bank between St Ann's Mills and 649 Kirkstall Road.

Photograph of the riverside below Saint Ann's Mills

The footpath element in this proposal previously received planning consent 91/24/538/99 granted to Haiste Ltd by the Leeds Development Corporation. This would have completed the network of goitside walks started by the Kirkstall Village Community Association in the 1980s. The corporation ran out of money and the footpath scheme was never constructed. A "green transport" link along the river valley has taken on a new significance with the proposed redevelopment of the Kirkstall Forge site, and the expanding riverside offices and commercial developments at the west end of the city centre.

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10) Gott's suspension bridge

Future projects might include the restoration of Benjamin Gott's footbridge, near to Burley Mills. This cast iron, wood and steel suspension bridge was constructed in the early years of the 19th century to allow workers from Armley to cross the river to reach their employment at Burley Mills. It stood until 1954, but now only the massive cast iron pillars remain. Fortunately, detailed photographs survive, sufficient to permit its restoration. This would complete the off-road cycle track from Kirkstall Forge through Kirkstall Abbey to Armley Mills.

Photographs of Benjamin Gott's suspension bridge

 

Footbridge photographs Copyright Leeds City Council. All rights reserved.

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11) Industrial archaeology

In addition to the varied wildlife, there is a rich industrial archaeology along the mills, weirs and mill goits. This should be made accessible to the public and to local schools. The hydraulic engineering near St Ann's Mills is particularly ingenious, with multiple input and output channels. It served an earlier 18th century mill, much of which is still visible, which was replaced by the 1835 building that dominates the site today.

Photograph of 18th century mill race at Saint Ann's mills

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12) Visitor centre at St Annís Mills

This semi-derelict industrial site has enormous potential. The original eighteenth century water mill buildings have largely collapsed, although the ground plan is still evident, and the hydraulic works are largely intact. The principal four-storey mill building was designed as a steam mill and was built around 1835 using the same "fireproof brick arch" construction employed at Armley Mills. It was purchased by Leeds City Council in 1970 but lost its roof and upper storey in a fire in 1975. [The Council claimed the insurance, but spent the money elsewhere.] The Council's original intention was to clear the entire site to create public open space. The historical value of the main building is increasingly recognised although most of the outbuildings and weaving sheds have been demolished. The interior of the mill has stone-flagged floors supported by Victorian cast-iron pillars and low brick arches with iron hoops. It was occupied for many years by Arteco metalcraft, a light engineering company, who recently moved elsewhere. There are photographs of the original building which could be restored as a visitor centre and 'organic' riverside restaurant, using crops grown locally on Burley Mills allotments. It also has potential as an art gallery or a natural history museum, or for sporting uses in connection with the white water canoe course. Voluntary Action Leeds have suggested that it could provide office accommodation for voluntary groups centred in the Headingley, Kirkstall and Weetwood areas that have been displaced by inflated rents near the universities. Like many other inner city industrial locations, the buildings are sometimes unoccupied at night and have consequently suffered from petty thefts, arson and vandalism. This could be reduced by employing a permanent caretaker, or greater use of CCTV. Housing development would be very difficult on this site, which is in the designated flood plain of the River Aire and there are high voltage overhead cables nearby.

Benjamin Gott's developments

 

1955 photographs of St Ann's Mills copyright Leodis Database Leeds.

Gott's mansion, in Gottís Park, was completed in 1820 and is currently occupied by a golf club. Repairs are urgently needed to this building, which is owned by Wades Charity, but leased to Leeds City Council for 999 years as part of a public park. The surrounding landscape garden is by Humphrey Repton (1752-1818).

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13) Narrow gauge tourist rail link

This would run from Armley Mills Industrial Museum to Kirkstall Abbey and Abbey House museum via the Nature Reserve, sometimes using historic Leeds railway engines. (It is difficult to provide a regular service using older engines because of reliability problems!) Parts of this route are already in existence, while others already have the required railway consents. Leeds University Engineering School has offered to do some design work. Narrow boats on the canal would permit circular trips in both directions, working from the existing canal marina: travelling by rail one way, by water the other. Amateur engineers in Kirkstall have already constructed a fully licensed, inspected and insurable railway bridge over the Abbey Mill Goit that is currently used for passenger services. These proposals would help to address the relatively low footfall at the Industrial Museum and Abbey House Museum, and make for a much more integrated tourist experience.

Photograph of the Abbey Light Railway

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Help needed

The full project will require significant capital investment and maintenance. Assistance is needed with fund raising, and in preparing a reasoned case for financial support. Student projects are particularly welcome. Academic and practical help is urgently required in the following areas:

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