Vital renovation work on a crumbling Leeds landmark has stalled – after the builders walked out on the £650,000 project.
As previously reported in the YEP, the Grade II listed former ‘Mike’s Carpets’ building in Armley, a historic former Methodist chapel which sits on a gateway junction, is due to get a new lease of life to cement its crucial role in the area’s regeneration.
However six months after the start of work on the site was announced by Leeds council bosses, the scaffolding has come down, with no work apparently done.
This is despite the fact that around £120,000 of public cash – the majority of which comes from a £1.4m Heritage Lottery Fund grant for the Armley area as well as council funding – has already been handed over by the authority for the work.
A source told the YEP the scaffolding, which was up for 26 weeks, had cost £30,000 to put up and £1,400 a week after that. It means more than 10 per cent of the total budget (£66,000) is already spent.
A Leeds City Council spokesman said: “The Mike’s Carpets property is subject to a grant scheme jointly funded by the council, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and owner.
“Due to private contractual matters, involving the owner and his contractors, work on the site has been terminated and the contractors have left the site.
“This is disappointing as although some preparatory works had commenced no substantive works were completed.
“The council is currently in discussion with the HLF and owner regarding the future of the scheme and an announcement will be made in due course.”
Businessman Mike Smith, who still owns the building but now leases it to another firm, insisted talks with a new contractor were under way and “the job will be completed”.
He said work should start by April, adding: “We look forward to returning the building to its former glory”.
The YEP understands that the council is entitled to claim back the £120,000 already paid out if the work is not completed.
The £650,000 project is being funded with £500,000 from the Armley Townscape Heritage Initiative scheme, a £1.4m pot of cash which is made up of Lottery grants and council funding. Mr Smith is paying the remaining £150,000.
The planned repairs include work on the natural slate roof, restoration of the windows and terracotta entrance as well as rebuilding the boundary wall.
As previously reported, relations between Mr Smith and council bosses have not always been so smooth.
The authority had previously offered the businessman £250,000 to buy the building outright and later - when he refused the offer - threatened him with a compulsory purchase order.
He was also ordered to remove the large advertising hoardings which covered the building’s facade for many years.