Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Latest On the Old York Road Library Saga

Sarah and Sam, two of the members of a COVEN delegation on their way to a meeting at the Civic Hall with Councillors Graham Hyde (Lab) and Richard Brett (Lib Dem) and Council officers Richard Fenton and Phill Ward regarding the future of the Old York Road Library.

This building was once one of the most prestigious buildings in the area and in the city.

It was built in 1904 to a prize winning design by H Ascough Chapman for a Public Baths and Free Library on York Road and it showcased the work of the skilled craftsmen of the city of Leeds.

In 2005, the building being surplus to requirements, Leeds City Council first wanted to auction the building but in the end decided to sell the Grade II Listed Building to a Jason Gary Butler of Jump Marketing for the princely sum of £17,000. The only proviso they saw fit to put on the building was that it should be used for office space.

Over the next two years the building was boarded up but repeatedly broken into. Butler did apply for planning permission to convert the library into offices in 2005 which was refused and again in 2007 which he withdrew. However the library was put up for sale in 2008 and the asking price was a staggering £350,000! We have to say that had this sale gone through and realised that amount of money COVEN would certainly have had some very pointed things to say to the councillors, since if this building was really worth anything approaching that figure the Council Tax payers of Leeds should have been the people who reaped the benefit and not a landlord who had done nothing to improve the building and indeed had let it go to wrack and ruin.

The sale did not go through, possibly because the building, both inside and out, had become a wreck. Please look at the link below and see what has become of a once proud testament to the skill and commitment of the people of Leeds.

COVEN have been trying in recent years to raise awareness of the imminent demise of this building. We have repeatedly asked questions at the Richmond Hill Forum and been largely fobbed off, we have lobbied the Victorian Society, English Heritage, the Council’s own department for preserving buildings under threat and all are very sympathetic and agree wholeheartedly that this building is in danger and that something needs to be done, but no action ever results.

We have written to the papers, put videos up on YouTube, in fact tried everything we could think of to raise awareness of this problem. This building has become a magnet for criminal and anti social behaviour. Inside the building the floor is covered in with drug paraphernalia and the site around attracts fly tippers and vandals on a fairly regular basis.

A member of COVEN was invited to a meeting with the head of the development company, Rushbond, who are planning to build the All Saints Centre on the land behind the library. He let it be known that if the library was still standing he would be willing to make it part of the development and to refurbish the building in due course. However we were told at our meeting in the Civic Hall by Cllr Brett that Rushbond were not willing to do anything to save the library building now and that it was not integral to their plans for the site, their development could go ahead without it if necessary.

After much discussion chaired by Cllr Hyde we left the meeting with the clear impression that a Draft Notice would be served on the landlord on Monday 25 October 2010 with a Notice to make the roof weatherproof being issued on the following Monday 1 November 2010 making it clear if Jason Butler did not carry out the work himself it would be done by the Council and the cost charged to him and should he not pay, a charge would be levied against his property so that the council could re-coup their money.

Since then we have had a disturbing email from Cllr Brett in response to one from COVEN asking for confirmation that the Notices had been issued. In it he observes that he has seen the building recently and it appears to be secure. We however would question how a building without any windows or a roof can remotely be described as secure! Whilst it is true that the ground floor may be secure for now and most of the fly tipped rubbish has been removed it will all happen again soon as it has so many times before - but it is the danger of this special building being allowed to fall down that is our main concern.

We will keep pressing hard for urgent action to be taken immediately on this matter but please if you feel strongly about this important part of our hisory contact your councillors, your MP or write to the newspapers about it as it seems that only sustained public pressure will stop this matter being once again swept under the carpet until the problem is solved by the building being allowed to fall down – we don’t want to lose the library in the same way as the White Cloth Hall was lost through apathy!


  1. York Road Library is a beautiful building, but more importantly is part of our Heritage and one of the very few beautiful buildings in our area. We should all campaign to save it!!

  2. Well said maria_pin but we will keep you up to date with what it happening

  3. How do they get away with it? £17k for a grade two listed building, probabnly not in perfect condition but it was watertight. Head should roll for this.