Residents rejoice as Kirkstall Nature Reserve saved by £1 purchase from council after auction backlash

Leeds Council will pay National Grid one pound to save Kirkstall Nature Reserve going up for auction after a public outcry, it has been announced.

By Daniel Sheridan
Tuesday, 9th November 2021, 9:10 am

The news comes after campaigners in west Leeds expressed their “disbelief” at the decision to put part of the wildlife park up for auction, with a guide of just £500.

Kirkstall Valley Nature reserve, which sits on the site of the former Kirkstall Power Station, is thought to be home to more than 130 species of plants and 65 species of birds.

Owners of the site National Grid had recently placed it up for auction via Allsop’s, which listed the 30-acre site, which appears to take up roughly half of the reserve, with a guide price of just “£500+”.

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PICS: Mary-Beth Whittingstall

According to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, the site’s meadows sustain a “myriad of insect life including the small copper butterfly”, as well as young woodland with fruit-bearing shrubs attracting feeding birds, while ponds and ditches host populations of toads, frogs and newts.

More than 130 plant species have been recorded on site along with 65 species of birds.

Leeds residents were left devastated by the potential sale and change of use of the Nature Reserve.

However, it was announced on Monday that the Reserve will now be saved by Leeds Council.

PICS: Mary-Beth Whittingstall

National Grid had identified the land as "surplus to their requirements", the report said.

The acquisition of the land by the council would "maintain the status of the land as an important local amenity and urban green corridor".

In addition the continued access to such amenity land will support health and wellbeing benefits for nearby communities and local residents who can access and move through the area from both Armley and Kirkstall, the sale report stated.

Upon the Council acquiring the land, it is initially intended that the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust continue to undertake maintenance, management and conservation work.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have expressed their interest in continuing to manage the site.

The acquisition of the land at a value of £1 will be funded from the Asset Management and Regeneration Service budget of the Council.

The report said: "There has been careful consideration about whether the Council should proceed with making an offer to purchase the land given the long-term maintenance liabilities.

"As such, the Council could consider standing aside and allowing National Grid to seek bids through auction.

"However, this could result in the site being purchased by a party who do not prioritise the sustainable management of the land and its continued enjoyment by the public.

"In the longer term, it is hoped that the ecology and biodiversity benefits for this land will be visible for local residents to enjoy."

The Nature Reserve has now been pulled from auction and purchased by the council, a signed report stated.

Lou Cunningham - councillor for Armley - expressed her delight at the news after calling on the council to help.

She said: "As Inner West councillors we are delighted that Leeds City Council chief officers and team were able to negotiate a deal with National Grid to save the nature reserve from being sold at auction.

"We had a lot of support from our community to press for this land to be able to remain as protected green space and are overjoyed that this has been made possible."

In a social media post, Kirkstall Valley Development Trust added: “Absolutely thrilled to be able to share that the Nature Reserve has been saved! It has been bought by Leeds City Council who have recognised its value to the Armley and Kirkstall Communities – the community voice has been heard! Amazing work by local Cllrs and Council officers who have ensured that this vital green space has been saved!

"Well done to all!”

Amateur photographer and Leeds resident Mary-Beth Whittingstall spoke to the YEP last week to plead for intervention in the auction.Speaking to the YEP after the announcement, she said: "This news brings relief to everyone who has felt distressed about losing Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve to developers. I’m delighted the land is now in safe hands and will continue to provide a safe place for the wildlife that calls it home, as well as a peaceful retreat for Leeds residents in the heart of the city.

"I look forward to continuing my daily lunchtime walks around the reserve, listening to the birds singing and photographing the beautiful wildlife we’re so fortunate to share it with. May it continue to be treated with the love and respect it deserves."

Nicola Slater, Portfolio Manager for National Grid said: “National Grid has a nationwide programme to reduce land holdings that do not support its core business activities. As part of this programme, we are delighted to be able to gift this land to Leeds City Council for a nominal sum so it can remain in public use for many generations to come.”

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