Leeds: Lottery plan to rescue historic White Cloth Hall

HISTORIC GEM: Trevor Mitchell, from English Heritage, pictured outside the remains of the White Cloth Hall in Kirkgate, Leeds. PIC: Simon Hulme
HISTORIC GEM: Trevor Mitchell, from English Heritage, pictured outside the remains of the White Cloth Hall in Kirkgate, Leeds. PIC: Simon Hulme
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A heritage lottery bid could throw a lifeline to one of Leeds’s most historic buildings that is in danger of demolition.

Conservationists including Leeds Civic Trust have been calling for action to save the city’s First White Cloth Hall in Kirkgate.

And a stage two bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to be submitted next year could provide funds towards the restoration and refurbishment of the grade II*-listed hall, which was built in 1711.

Surveys carried out following the dismantling of the building’s west wing have indicated the structure is capable of repair and so eligible for public funding.

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The council will next spring submit a stage two bid for a scheme to regenerate Kirkgate. If approved by the HLF, just over £1.5m of lottery money would be available for the scheme and £500,000 of the cash would go towards the restoration of the hall.

But a report to the council’s city centre plans panel warned more money would be needed to save the hall. Council officers are working with the building’s owner – City Fusion – and the HLF to find viable options for the restoration.

The report said the cloth hall was the “most challenging aspect” of the Kirkgate scheme and added: “The current initiative may be the last realistic chance to save it from demolition.”

The HLF is expected to make a decision on the bid in June or July next year. If successful, work on the five-year lower Kirkgate regeneration project could start towards the end of 2012.

Built for producers of undyed cloth who had previously traded in Briggate, the hall was instrumental in establishing Leeds as a key commercial centre.

The west wing had to be dismantled following the partial collapse of the building next door. The work was carried out with input from English Heritage structural engineers and wall and roof materials were salvaged and retained for reuse.

Coun Ann Blackburn (Green, Farnley and Wortley) said the money was needed to tackle an area that had become an eyesore.