Furious campaigners in Leeds staged a protest a bid by JD Wetherspoon to turn a Grade II listed building into a pub.
Councillors and residents gathered at the Elinor Lupton Centre on Sunday (Dec 7) to highlight a petition objecting to the pub chain’s recent purchase of the site on Headingley Lane.
Previously a theatre and music centre, the building has been empty since 2010 after the old Leeds Girls’ High School closed.
Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab, Headingley) said he was disappointed the building’s owners, The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL), had chosen to sell to the company despite interest from two social enterprises.
He said: “Yet another pub in Headingley, in a location close to so many homes, is not what Headingley needs. It is very disappointing that the building has been sold to a pub chain when there were two community groups wanting to purchase the building to use it as an arts, music and theatre centre – something our community needs. Pubs on the other hand, we are not short of already.”
It follows campaigners’ disappointment at losing a seven-year battle to keep the former Leeds Girls’ High School site, on nearby Victoria Road, for use by the community. Leeds City Council approved plans for housing and a supermarket on the site in April this year. Coun Walshaw said: “Every time GSAL have had an opportunity to give something back to Headingley, they have decided not to. They have let Headingley down every time, to the point which is absurd now.”
JD Wetherspoon’s interest in the Elinor Lupton building dates back to 2007, when the YEP reported fears by police and the community over the pub chain’s desire to buy the site.
The site lies within an area which the council made subject to a cumulative impact policy in 2005, aiming to stop the spread of licensed premises in the area.
A spokesman for JD Wetherspoons confirmed it had bought the site and said if approved, the development would be in excess of £1.5m and would employ 50 members of staff. He said: “We have a number of Wetherspoon pubs in Leeds itself and in the Yorkshire region that are all successful. We are always looking for good sites in the region.
“We have one existing pub in Headingley which is very popular and, subject to the necessary planning and licensing permission, we would be able to create a very good pub here which we believe would be an asset to the area.”
SOLD: LATEST CHAPTER IN CENTRE’S LIFE
Leeds CiviC Trust says the Elinor Lupton Centre was originally designed by local architect William Peel Schofield in 1912. It passed into the ownership of Leeds Girls High School in 1986 and has been unoccupied since 2010. A Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) spokeswoman said the building was sold by GSAL trustees and Leeds Girls’ High School Foundation, a charity for the provision of schools through the grammar school. She said: “In order to meet their obligation to maximise the value of the charity’s assets in fulfilment of its objectives, the trustees instructed an agent to offer the building for sale on the open market. The future use of the building will be determined by the purchasers and Leeds City Council through the usual planning procedures.”