Hunslet residents are calling out a local property developer and their building contractors, working on a major £50m redevelopment project – for “irresponsible and inconsiderate” working practices, and also separately for “deviously playing the planning system”, “duping locals, for a quick buck”. The developers – JM Construction – deny all the allegations.

Hunslet Mill and Victoria Works are epic early Victorian mills facing onto the Aire and Calder Navigation, just along from Leeds Dock. They are Grade II and Grade II* listed buildings of regional significance, but lay empty and derelict from the 1970s onwards.

Residents, historians and architectural bodies feared they would be lost – but were relieved when in 2017, owners JM Construction obtained planning permission to convert them into 350 flats, to be known as Victoria Riverside.

However, local residents – especially on the next-door H2010 housing estate – argue that the story has since turned sour.

Since building work started in 2018, they have reported a litany of problems. These include: late night noise, with contractors occasionally working all night on heavy machinery tasks such as ‘power floating’ (smoothing new concrete floors); failure to suppress dust, leading to thick dust clouds frequently covering the estate; rubble and construction materials falling into the street and onto parked cars; and ongoing battles with contractors over littering and anti-social parking around the neighbourhood.

Residents have complained about all-night working

Locals describe the situation as “dismal”; one told us “it’s become a nightmare living here”. Furthermore, some residents – themselves builders – also claim to have witnessed lax health and safety regulations on the site. Many residents have contacted the contractors with feedback and queries – but say they have had limited response, and even aggression. One told us:

“The lack of communication is so disappointing: if they’d built up relationship with us, we could have easily avoided many of these issues.”

The Council’s environmental health team, and West Yorkshire Police have also been involved on occasion – but have expressed satisfaction that the contractors haven’t breached their management plan nor regulations. The contractors also stressed that they have regular contact with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) government agency, and are fully compliant.

Separately, residents are also incensed that JM Construction have applied to Leeds Planning Department to scrap a proposed shop unit within the development, and replace it with further flats. Residents had originally welcomed this feature as an “incredibly important community asset” for an area which will soon have over 650 households, but which currently has no food shops within half a mile.

In comments made to us, and others submitted to the Planning Department, residents expressed dismay that the proposed amenity was at risk, repeatedly alleging that the developer is doing so simply in pursuit of profit.

They argue that a shop will help build a stronger local community, and reduce car use and air pollution – and also help fulfil the city’s response to the Climate Emergency.

The empty retail unit at the junction of Atkinson Street and Goodman Street

One resident described events as a common “bait-and-switch” tactic, where people are enticed to buy or rent properties, with promises of amenities that are never fulfilled. Noting that Miller Homes did exactly the same when building H2010, another bemoaned that it was established practice amongst developers. Another commented:

“Please don’t allow them to walk all over us, profit from our neighbourhood, and ruin it instead of enhancing it.”

And other stakeholders have thrown their weight behind the objections. Cllr Paul Wray (Hunslet & Riverside) told us:

“We do not accept the developers argument of there being no demand for a general convenience retailer in the area. They seem to be placing making a quicker profit before the needs of the community, and we strongly feel they could do more to attract a retailer. We will make our case at plans panel if need be, and fight to support our community’s case”.

And Martin Hamilton, Director of Leeds Civic Trust, commented:

“We are keen to ensure that all developments are sustainable, providing amenities within easy reach. It is important that each scheme plays its part in creating a range of community facilities for those who live and work nearby”.

The application to alter the planning application was submitted in April 2020, but – following dozens of complaints – was repeatedly extended. Comments did eventually close last month, and the planning application will now go to the Council’s South and West Planning Panel later this autumn.

A spokesperson for JM Construction told us:

“We’re a long-established local company, very community-based in our thinking – but you simply can’t do a development on this scale without disruption. We pride ourselves on running sites that are as clean and safe as possible, taking every possible precaution, and trying to cause minimal inconvenience and disruption to residents. And on the proposed change to planning, we’ve gone out and actively sought a retail partner over two years, and had absolutely no interest. What’s the better option: leave it derelict?”

Specifically, they also stressed that they had had permission for the late-night power floating – and that they have actually now changed their flooring process, at considerable expense, so that all-night work will not be repeated. They also stated that they always instruct staff and sub-contractors to park within the site, where there was sufficient capacity for everyone – and that they would reiterate that.

For more details on the Victoria Riverside development, or to contact JM Construction, visit: jmconstruction.co.uk. The project is due for completion in 2023/24, but residents have already moved into some blocks.

To report environmental hazards or concerns relating to building developments, visit leeds.gov.uk or call (0113) 222 4444. For all issues relating to Health and Safety on building developments, visit hse.gov.uk.

 

14 Replies to “Trouble at mill”

  1. Can’t wait for the construction team to have the reminder about the capacity for car parking on the site rather than on the roads and pavements on the H2010 development. Perhaps then we will have our bins emptied again !

  2. A very unbalanced article here pushed by the whining residents of H2010. These are the same people who complained when the mill was derelict and used by local youths as a ropey hangout. They seem to not understand that you need to break eggs to make an omelette. I’ve witnessed their complaints about the shop believing that a shop would create no traffic… Anyone who knows anything about this estate know that they complain about everything, think they own the roads and the canal and bother the local council about everything. Next time, Ed – chat to some normal people and avoid the hyperbolic residents of H2010.

    1. Hi Dave, thanks for your interest/comments. We didn’t just speak with the H2010 residents: I had a long positive chat with someone for JM Construction, and we published their position fairly fully enough. Society at its best is like a conversation: my sense is that the residents have reasonable concerns, and even if people don’t agree, I believe it’s right and proper to share them; and also right and proper for JMC to put their point across. It’s by no means assured, but if some dialogue between those parties (which is currently pretty non-existent) came out of this, that would be a positive result – for people above all else to see the situation through the eyes of the other. Many of the residents were quick to stress their understanding of the challenges/complexities of a major refurb project like this – but were also baffled by the lack of useful communication with the developers. It’d be such a easy way to make things better, without spending money (and maybe even saving some).
      Finally, if any of us lived next to a major development like this, and faced comparable disruptions, I think we’d all speak up – we each need to stand up and fight for the good of our communities.. Thank God we live in a country where that right is (for the time being) secure

      1. Ed, I live on the estate and there was a message on the Facebook page – “South Leeds Life are writing an article about the pollution, noise, dust, debris and disruption caused by the mill refurb. Does anyone have any thoughts, quotes, pictures to share?”

        Would you say that this sought balanced views? I for one am delighted about the work because I remember the hole that existed before. In a couple of years time we will all be delighted they came and fixed up the area.

        1. Hi, thanks for your comment / critique – really glad to see that this article has stirred up debate, which is what we all need more of.
          We worked pretty hard at gathering a range of views. I scoured previous posts in the FB group relating to the development project, and messaged a load of different people off those threads (but the vast majority of people on those threads did seem critical of the scheme). Likewise with people who commented on the planning application (again, the vast majority objected).
          We didn’t post publicly about it, because we didn’t want to create a pile-on (but someone else must have done so, on our behalf).
          We then had wide-ranging discussions with people, and tried not just to get people’s moans, but discuss solutions. We’ve shared a fair representation of everyone’s comments.
          Finally, we had a long positive chat with a representative for JM Construction, who seemed like a very reasonable guy, and we’ve cited them and their position at length.
          I should add that everyone I spoke with agreed that they were glad that the mill was proceeding (not deteriorating), and we’ve mentioned that relief in the article.
          Finally, those I spoke with were all pretty pragmatic. They understood that a big project like that would inevitably generate disruption. But I feel they were raising legitimate queries, many of which could be resolved with some simple dialogue and attention.
          I hope that this article and discussion might possibly help us all move in that direction.
          Thanks again, best wishes.

  3. Thing is, Dave, they actually do ‘own’ the path in front of the canal and the roads around the estate – all are maintained by the Residents’ service charge.

    1. Goodman Street is a public road – it is not owned by the residents and thus anyone is allowed to park on it. Arguably the residents of the mill have just as much right to park there as they also live there but they just don’t complain as much. The residents also don’t own the island section or thin bridge on the canal but sure as hell moan about people who do not use it in a way only they see fit. My mate sends me the Facebook group updates – really is hilarious.

      1. Hi again Dave. I don’t think the residents are arguing that others can’t part on Goodman Street (at least I didn’t hear it), but I think any of us would speak up if building work in our neighbourhood meant we were repeatedly blocked in, or couldn’t park. I also don’t see much indication of one-track moaning / nimbyisn. I see people bothered about their community;. taking action, and (in this case) calling out something they see as unfair. Again, even if you disagreed, isn’t it fair to give them the opportunity to share their concerns?

  4. Apart from the shop this is just hollow nimbyism. If you don’t like it then move and stop complaining about nothing.

  5. Ted, my point is they whine about everything: people not going one way on a bridge; bloke flipping a tyre by the canal ‘too loudly’; people walking on the grass at the front of the estate; parking, parking, parking; leasehold after buying a leasehold property etc. I recently saw an attempt to put a barrier on a public road! So, what I am saying is, these folks love a good whine so all this needs to be taken with the largest pinch of salt. The building firm would have never kept them happy even if they came and cleaned their houses daily, cooked them dinner and gave them a free apartment!

    1. I agree with Dave Stephen’s comments above. I live on the mills, and yes, at times it’s annoying but it’s not caused anyone any real issues. Crazy that it’s caused the neighbouring estate more hassle that those who live on it..

      The shop situation is a bit annoying because it was a partial factor when we bought the flat.

      The H2010 community group on Facebook is a parody of itself, it’s ridiculous, I follow the posts in there more for my own amusement. Low and behold anyone drive into their estate!

      1. You purchased your flat on a building site knowing it would continue to be one for years to come. Many adjacent residents didn’t.

        Parking is an annoyance because the Mills charge for parking whereas the neighbouring estate doesn’t. I wouldn’t be annoyed if I lived at the Mills; I’d park on the neighbouring estate and save money.

        As usual, perspective matters.

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