Headingley Development Trust was established in 2005 by a group of local residents concerned about the rapidly changing nature of the area.
Headingley is a relatively affluent part of Leeds with a high proportion of student residents.
Around 2005, Headingley Primary School was to become redundant, with the likelihood of it being converted to student flats. The Trust was determined to find an alternative future for the school.
Although the school was already about to come onto the market, the Trust realised that this would be a long term battle, and they set about developing a range of other initiatives including:
- whole food shop acquired through a community share issue
- farmers’ market
- pig and fowl co-operative.
The school, built in 1882, was in need of repair and remodelling in order to convert it to community use. The total cost of refurbishment was around £1.3m, financed through a community share issue plus loans and grant funding.
The transfer took place in 2010 and the building is now well used by local people as a community centre, with a main hall and a variety of smaller rooms for hire. Rooms are let on a sessional or longer term basis and among other things have operated as childcare facilities and band practice rooms.
The Trust puts on regular community events itself, and runs a high quality café within the building. Businesses are also catered for, with flexible deals available in a popular open plan setting.
This combination of uses provides a variety of income streams, but the building still uses a number of volunteers as well as paid staff in order to sustain it through its early years of trading.
The asset transfer process was a long and difficult one. Headingley is not a deprived area and the site was highly valuable as a residential development site. It required patience and tenacity on the part of the Trust to persuade the local authority to forego a substantial capital receipt in favour of a community solution.
The transfer is on the basis of a 125-year lease. It includes a requirement to provide a community centre provision for the first 25 years of the lease, as a result of the sale of the previous community centre close by. The sale of this centre by the council– was part of the rationale for allowing the loss of capital receipt on the primary school.
Looking to the future, the aim is to survive and remain sustainable in the current tough economic climate, increase the number of users and expand the offer to include art shows, weddings, music events and festivals.