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Leeds councillors back scheme to rescue historic cloth hall

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Plans to restore a derelict 300-year-old trading hall in Leeds have received a major boost from city planners

The council’s City Plans Panel approved an application by Manchester’s Buttress Architects to overhaul the First White Cloth Hall, which dates from 1711.

The scheme, which is backed by local developer Rushbond, will see essential repairs to the Grade II*-listed building – which is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register – to make it a viable space for retail or office uses.

Buttress Architects proposes to restore arcading to the east wing inner courtyard, mirror the restored east wing on the demolished west wing, repair frontages to Kirkgate and introduce modern fenestration and a glazed atrium.

Planners said the scheme was ‘an important opportunity to sensitively repair and restore the oldest building on Leeds’ oldest street, and bring one of the city’s most important historic buildings at risk back into active viable use, to become the centrepiece and catalyst for the regeneration of the Kirkgate area’.

The Heritage at Risk register describes First White Cloth Hall as an ‘exceptionally rare example of an early 18th Century arcaded cloth hall’ but warns it is currently ‘derelict and deteriorating’.

Other, previous proposals drawn up for the site include an ‘option analysis’ by locally based Calls Architecture.

Leeds First White Cloth Hall as it is today

Leeds First White Cloth Hall as it is today

Leeds First White Cloth Hall as it is today

Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning Richard Lewis said: ‘Finally we are on the verge of seeing this important and historic building brought back into use in a way which befits its status as one of our city’s key heritage assets.

‘First White Cloth Hall can and should be a focal point for the whole of Lower Kirkgate and the catalyst for the long-term transformation of the area into a vibrant and contemporary hub which continues to attract new business and footfall while also paying tribute to its unique culture and tradition.’

The council’s executive board will tomorrow be asked to approve a grant of up to £500,000 towards the cost of revitalising the building as part of the Lower Kirkgate Townscape Heritage Initiative.

An application for listed building consent for the scheme will go to housing secretary Sajid Javid for final approval.

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