Amateur photographer pleads to save Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve amid plans to sell

An amateur photographer has pleaded for Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve to be saved - amid plans to sell the land.

Leeds City Council is currently “in talks” with the owner of Kirkstall Valley Nature reserve to save it from a potential sale, according to a senior Leeds politician.

It follows campaigners in west Leeds expressing 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.

PIC CREDIT: Mary-Beth Whittingstall

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+”.

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.

Now, Leeds residents - including Mary-Beth Whittingstall, 35 - are pleading to save the reserve from sale.

PIC CREDIT: Mary-Beth Whittingstall

Speaking to the YEP, Mary-Beth explained that she had photographed an incredible array of wildlife at the reserve.

She said news of it being up for sale were "very distressing".

Mary-Beth, Communications Officer at the University of Leeds, said: "The National Grid is a principal partner in COP26 yet they’re selling off a nature reserve, contradicting the values and principles they apparently wish to uphold.

"The uncertainty of what will become of the reserve following its sale is troubling for the many people who value this precious green space close to Leeds city centre, which provides habitat for hundreds of bird, mammal and insect species, including Kingfishers, Otters and scarce butterflies.

PIC CREDIT: Mary-Beth Whittingstall

"What will happen to the wildlife living in the grassland, wetlands and woodland if the trees are torn down and the land built upon?"

During the height of the pandemic last year, the nature reserve became a notable place for many Armley, Burley and Kirkstall residents to spend their exercise breaks, Mary-Beth - who lives in Burley - explained.

"For me, it was somewhere I sought a lot of comfort during treatment for the breast cancer I was diagnosed with a month into lockdown", Mary-Beth said.

"It’s also the location of the locally known ‘Armley Beach’, visited by students and families every year who enjoy sunbathing on the pebbled river bank and cooling down in the Aire on hot summer days."

Mary-Beth has been sharing photographs she has taken at the reserve on Twitter using the hashtag #SaveKirkstallValleyNR.

She added: "I encourage other people who enjoy visiting the reserve to do the same to remind National Grid of what’s really at stake if the land ends up in the wrong hands."

Speaking last week, National Grid said it was “normal company practice” to continuously assess its property portfolio.

A statement from the company added: “National Grid own the land at Kirkstall, Leeds which is currently part of the Kirkstall Valley Nature Reserve. Auctioneers Allsop, have been lined up to put the land through their auction in November.

“Both the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and the Leeds City Council have been advised of the plans to go to auction.”

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