Deal agreed to transform derelict Wakefield mills into creative hub for the North

Wakefield Council Leader Peter Box and developer Paul Kempe on site at Rutland Mills in Wakefield. The sale of the mill signals the final phase of Wakefield's Waterfront regeneration masterplan. Picture Scott Merrylees

Wakefield Council Leader Peter Box and developer Paul Kempe on site at Rutland Mills in Wakefield. The sale of the mill signals the final phase of Wakefield's Waterfront regeneration masterplan. Picture Scott Merrylees

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A DEAL has been agreed which could see a large area of derelict mills in a Yorkshire city transformed into a creative hub and provide up to 1,000 jobs.

Wakefield Council has agreed the sale of the Rutland Mills site, next to the city’s famous The Hepworth Wakefield art gallery, to property developers, City and Provincial Properties PLC,

The authority has hailed the deal as finally completing the City’s historic Waterfront regeneration masterplan. City and Provincial Properties is responsible for TileYard Studios, a creative media hub based in central London and now plans to create a ‘northern extension’ of this brand in Wakefield.

The firm’s director Paul Kempe’s initial ideas for Wakefield include new music, textiles, and art and design studios, a small boutique hotel, offices, an events space and a courtyard with bars and restaurants.

He said: “I think there’s huge creative talent in the North of England but a lot of people feel obliged to go down to London. These facilities here could accommodate that talent and keep it in the north, in Wakefield.” He added: “I hope that this will have a positive effect on both the immediate area and also The Hepworth. If we can create more interest in this site and this area, we will have more people who want to visit and enjoy it.

“We are very excited to be chosen as the developer for the regeneration of Rutland Mills and to work alongside both Wakefield Council and The Hepworth Wakefield in turning these unique buildings into a modern day creative hub that will complement the world class facilities of The Hepworth.”

The redevelopment could create up to 1,000 jobs and attract existing and start-up businesses.

Musicians based at TileYard Studios include Tinchy Stryder, Mark Ronson and Chase & Status.

Wakefield Council leader Coun Peter Box said: “This is an exciting opportunity to build on the international cultural reputation of The Hepworth. It was essential that the final phase of the Waterfront regeneration complemented what we have already achieved in this area and I am very pleased that City and Provincial are bringing their vision, experience and creative brand to Wakefield.”

Rutland Mills is a complex of mill buildings, believed to date back to 1872. The site has been derelict since 1999 and in 2005 formed part of the Waterfront Masterplan, which aimed to transform the area in three phases, over a fifteen year period.

Phase one was completed in 2009 with the creation of new office and work space and the development of new affordable homes. The art gallery, The Hepworth Wakefield, opened in 2011 marking the end of phase two.

The Hepworth Wakefield’s director Simon Wallis said: “We’re delighted that the culture-led regeneration of Wakefield Waterfront will now enter an exciting new phase that builds on the gallery’s success. We look forward to working closely with the developer to realise a shared vision for the site that has creativity at its heart and includes our plans to create a beautiful public garden situated between the two buildings. This adds substance to the ambition for creating a Northern Powerhouse in which Wakefield will play a significant part.”

Wakefield Council’s cabinet formally agreed the deal which will complete if the developer secures planning permission. It also requires the developer to start work within two years of completion otherwise a buy-back option for the council is triggered. The project is expected to take around five years to complete.

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