It is the driving force behind some of Headingley’s biggest success stories in recent years.
From the thriving arts centre at the ‘Heart’ of the community to the bustling farmers’ market, virtually all that is good about Headingley in 2012 is down to the Headingley Development Trust (HDT).
The trust was founded in 2005 when the council announced plans to close Headingley Primary School and local residents expressed the desire for the building to be retained for community use.
In a bid to help their dream become a reality, HDT came to life, organising a ‘community share scheme’ to fund the school’s conversion into an all-purpose centre.
The result is the Headingley Enterprise and Arts Centre (HEART), which opened last year at the Bennett Road site and has been a huge success.
HEART’s ground floor accommodates meeting spaces, training rooms and a cafe, while the first floor hosts a co-working office space.
“The HEART centre is very much a community resource,” said Kim Johnston, development manager at Headingley Development Trust.
“It’s bringing footfall through Headingley throughout the year and it’s one of the few places in Headingley that has full range of activities from nine months to 90.”
Today, HDT has more than 1,000 members, who can take part in everything from farmers’ markets to science lectures and community orchards.
The trust can also be credited with helping to provide more of a balance in Headingley, where back in 2005, the sheer number of students had left many families on the verge of moving away.
Since then, a cumulative impact policy to restrict the opening hours of bars and takeaways has been launched, along with new rules on Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO).
Combined with the activities launched by the trust, which has played an important role in promoting cohesion and sustainability, the changes have helped to strengthen the area’s unique community feel.
“The catalyst for the trust was the closure of the school,” Kim said.
“However, as the trust grew and more people got involved, the need to redress the balance became more of a priority.
“We wanted to encourage graduates to stay in Headingley and realise that this is a great place to be. People can shop, work, eat and play, all within a four-mile radius.
“Headingley is still very much a student area but although we don’t have any formal statistics, word-of-mouth feedback tells us there is more of a balance now.”
Members of HDT pay a one-off joining fee, which is then ploughed back into supporting various trust-led schemes.
These include the Pig and Fowl Co-op, the monthly farmers’ markets off North Lane and Headingley Homes, which aims to buy houses back from student landlords and rent them out to families.
HDT also led the community buyout of the Natural Food Store on North Lane in 2007.
“We’re receptive to ideas,” Kim said.
“If anybody has a business idea or a community idea that they think will make a beneficial difference to Headingley, we will help facilitate it.”
She added: “I’m pleased we’re here and I’m pleased we have in part helped to make Headingley the vibrant, buzzing community it is today.”