Burberry have pulled out of a deal that would have seen them refurbishing the Grade I listed Temple Works as part of their new manufacturing base in Holbeck.
Back in November 2015 we reported on Burberry’s plans for a £50m state-of-the-art manufacturing plant employing 1,000 workers to make their iconic Gabardine trench coat. Leeds City Council quickly approved plans to help Burberry acquire the sites in Holbeck including the Reality (Kays) site and adjacent plots, offering to use compulsory purchase powers if necessary. The Council also approved in principle a grant to help restore Temple Works itself.
Today (12 July 2017) Burberry have said they had an “option” on Temple Works and they have let it lapse. In other words they do not want to take on the responsibility and cost of restoring the building, which is currently one of the top priorities on the Council’s heritage buildings at risk register.
Burberry’s whole Holbeck project has been on hold since the Brexit vote. They have told the Yorkshire Evening Post that their decision on Temple Works does not affect the overall plan which they are still “taking a moment to think through.”
Temple Works is an amazing building. Built as a flax mill in the 1840s, the main weaving shed was the largest room in the world at the time. Externally it was styled to resemble the ancient Egyptian temple at Edfu. The building used new technology for the time, but is in need of urgent attention to protect it. For example cast iron support rods are starting to fail, this led to the collapse of part of the façade on Marshall Street a few years ago.
Council Leader and Middleton Park Councillor Judith Blake is quoted in the Yorkshire Evening Post saying:
“Clearly it is disappointing that they are no longer pursuing the option of developing Temple Works, but we have been actively working on securing a sustainable and appropriate future use for what is one of the largest and most magnificent Grade I listed buildings in the North of England.”
There was an alternative plan involving Leeds-based eco-developer Citu, the company behind Beeston’s Greenhouse development and the evolving Climate Innovation District in Hunslet. It is not clear if that plan can now be resurrected or whether the Council has to go back to square one.
In the meantime Leeds is at serious risk of losing a key part of its industrial heritage.