Subplot main Saltaire Riverside credit Artisan North

Artisan Real Estate wants to build 289 homes on the site of the old HMRC Shipley offices. Credit: Artisan North

The Subplot

The Subplot | UNESCO v Saltaire, posh pubs in Cheshire, cocktail downers

Welcome to The Subplot, your regular slice of commentary on the business and property market from across the North of England.


  • Jayne Dowle finds passions running high at West Yorkshire UNESCO World Heritage site Saltaire 
  • Elevator pitch: your weekly rundown of who and what is going up, and who is heading the other way


Don’t panic

There’s a bit of a kerfuffle in Saltaire, Victorian textile manufacturer Sir Titus Salt’s amazingly well-preserved late 19th century mill complex and workers’ housing in West Yorkshire. Saltaire was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2001. Now, two new developments under planning are dividing locals.

People get nervous when ‘World Heritage Site’ and ‘planning’ appear in the same sentence. Especially after what happened to Liverpool in 2021, when the international body withdrew UNESCO World Heritage Site status from the waterfront at a secret committee ballot held in China. Adjudicators said developments – including the new Everton FC stadium planned at Bramley Moore Dock – had resulted in a “serious deterioration” of the historic location.

Above the salt

Here’s the rub. If you’re building next to, but not actually in, the area designated a ‘World Heritage Site’, you’re on fairly solid ground – even if your plans are set within the World Heritage Site buffer zone.

That would be Leeds-based developer Artisan Real Estate’s argument. The developer plans to demolish two hexagonal five-storey 1970s office blocks, formerly HMRC Shipley, replacing them with a residential/live-work scheme known as Saltaire Riverside.

These unlovely hulks dominate an 11-acre site to the east of Saltaire itself, sandwiched between the River Aire and the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. They won’t be missed.

Plans on the table for Saltaire Riverside include 289 homes – a mix of low-level apartment blocks and family houses with tree-lined streets. There would also be flexible work-spaces, a new park, underground car-parking, and a canal-side café.

“We want this to be a modern interpretation of neighbouring Saltaire, bringing much-needed sustainable family housing in an accessible, well-connected and environmentally-responsible setting,” Artisan’s regional director James Bulmer tells Subplot.

The firm held three public consultations in 2022, submitting a planning application to Bradford City Council in September. That application is expected to go to Bradford City Council planning committee in April. If successful, construction should start later this year.

Reaction from many has been positive. Local historian, Les Brook, secretary of Saltaire History Club is happy, telling Subplot: “Saltaire History Club has been advising on potential new street names. We’re suggesting that they are named after some of the original builders of Saltaire, such as John Ives & Son, the principal builder of Bradford Town Hall, and the Moulson brothers, who built the United Reform Church, having already worked on the mill.”

Spinning yarns

The spoke in the Saltaire wheel is the proposed Community, Arts, Heritage and Future Technologies Centre, a £5.39m building designed to welcome visitors, with public exhibition space, gardens, community classrooms and a home for the Saltaire Collection (around 6,000 artefacts relating to Saltaire’s industrial history).

The problem? It’s within the World Heritage Site itself.

With plans designed by local architect 3xa Design, the project is the result of a successful bid to the government’s Towns Fund by further education institution Shipley College, Saltaire Collection, and Shipley Town Council. Public consultation took place in late 2022 and garnered more than 200 responses.

Shipley College’s spokesperson describes the proposal to Subplot as: “a civic shopfront for Saltaire – it is a celebration of the village’s past as the new home of the Saltaire Collection, protecting the artefacts of the village’s history.”

Angry protestors (so far anonymous) are less complimentary, calling the proposed glass-fronted contemporary pavilion a “permanent stain on the wholly Victorian centre of Saltaire” in a letter reportedly pushed through local doors before Christmas.

Looming battle

Shipley College is hoping to put in a planning application towards the end of January. If approved, the project would be completed in 2024.

It’s said some protestors don’t want Ofsted-rated ‘Good’ Shipley College, which provides vocational post-16 courses and adult classes, in the village at all – despite Sir Titus Salt’s commitment to educating his workers. The college is still housed in historic buildings, including the original school, now the Salt Building.

There are also mutterings that some homeowners are frustrated because they can’t make even minor alterations to their own properties – listing rules being notoriously demanding – yet public bodies can put forward plans for brand new buildings in such a historic setting.

And there are fears, of course, that this contemporary building could damage Saltaire’s World Heritage status and bring UNESCO’s condemnation crashing down. Remember Liverpool, they say.

Salt in the wound

“Saltaire is nothing like Liverpool,” Maggie Smith, secretary to the board of trustees, Saltaire World Heritage Education Association, tells Subplot.

“Liverpool built far too many high-rise buildings. This is a small low-rise building that stands back from the main road. It has a glass front and a pavilion over. It will give permanent display to some of the amazing objects in the Saltaire Collection.

“Also, it is really silly to think that planners today want to recreate the past. Planners will not accept anything that’s a pastiche – it’s deceitful.”

What would Sir Titus, who swathed his patrician way through Victorian bureaucracy to build an entire village and industrial empire without so much as a public consultation, have made of all this?


Going up, or going down? This week’s movers

Is winter freezing Leeds city centre? Meanwhile, Cheshire Pub Co ploughs ahead to open another hearty hostelry.

Cocktail downer

East 59th, D&D London’s rooftop bar-restaurant overlooking Kirkgate Market in Leeds city centre, closed suddenly in the post-Christmas chill, with “spiralling costs” blamed for its untimely demise.

D&D London’s 40-strong portfolio boasts Angelica, another Leeds cocktail bar, as well as the popular 20 Stories night-time attraction in Manchester and the Bluebird Chelsea in central London.

Justifying the closure of East 59th, D&D co-founder and chief executive David Loewi is reported as saying “with the current economic challenges including spiralling utility, food and beverage costs and the unstable labour market we have sadly, after much consideration, decided to cease trading in this restaurant…D&D restaurants, however, continue to trade well and have had a very positive December despite the ongoing industrial disputes effecting transport.” Glass half-full?

Cocksure coaching inn

Meanwhile, Cheshire Pub Co continues its impressive acquisition of traditional pubs with the announcement that the Manchester-based chain has announced a partnership with Joseph Holt Brewery to reopen The Cock o’Budworth, a historic 17th-century coaching inn in the village of Great Budworth in Northwich.

The team at Cheshire Pub Co say they “are both humbled and excited to be working with one of the North West’s leading brewers” and will “enter into the partnership with the same energy and spirit they give to all their leading venues across Cheshire.”

With the help of quirky touches such as giant Scotch eggs and cockles and pickles served at last orders, Cheshire Pub Co are making waves in the beleaguered hospitality industry. Recent transformations include The Churchill Tree pub in Alderley Park.

Next up for Cheshire Pub Co is a relaunch of the Rascal and Radical at the Old Fire Station in Tarporley. The company says it is on the look-out for more “quality suburban, village or rural pubs… down on its luck, closed or likely to be sold… We are looking to grow our portfolio of individual pubs and inns throughout affluent areas of Cheshire.” Bottoms up then.

Get in touch with Place North West

Your Comments

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Have I been sent the wrong mailer from a sister publication this week?! Tell me what’s happening west of the pennines

By Place Yorkshire

    Nice name. We’ll have to keep that one in mind. Our Subplot column covers the North West, Yorkshire, and North East. But don’t worry, while Subplot has a Northern focus, our regular news coverage on Place North West is dedicated to delivering you the latest property news concerning the North West and North Wales. – J

    By Julia Hatmaker

Maggie Smith ” Liverpool built far too many high-rise buildings”, well we haven`t, and the problem with Unesco was they didn`t want anything built, low or high everything was criticised or problematic. It had reached the point where almost all of the inner-city was either in the WHS or in the WHS buffer zone, and that`s just not practical, Liverpool was being strangled .
Just compare Unesco`s position in London, there is hardly a word when mega high-rise is built right in the shadow of the Tower of London ,for example.

By Anonymous

As with Liverpool, so with Saltaire: at the heart of the UNESCO badge is a democratic deficit. When did UNESCO stand on an anti-development ticket for Bradford City Council? Who gives it the authority to control and determine the city’s planning policy? To whom is it accountable? Certainly not the good folk of Saltaire who, if they have any sense, will tell them politely to keep their badge.

It didn’t make one jot of difference to Liverpool’s thriving tourism industry when it was removed, proof that it was obviously not a determining factor to visitor numbers when it was in place. Saltaire’s appeal as a wonderful heritage asset will remain long after UNESCO has been sent packing.

By Sceptical

Don’t hate the proposals for the Saltaire site but it’s laughable that developers claim “low carbon” without any attempt whatsoever to make use of the existing structures on the site. Knock it all down, replace with new RC frames, add a greenwashing page to the website. Business as usual.

By W

The site in Saltaire for the proposed Community, Arts, Heritage and Future Technologies Centre is currently a surface car park, toilet block and social club. It is a prominent site in the center of Saltaire, separated from the mill by allotments and a railway line. The proposed development is disappointing and a missed opportunity of poor architectural quality. It shouldn’t be pastiche but a good quality contemporary brick building with interesting detailing would be much more suited than a modern pavilion that makes no reference to the surrounding architecture.

By Dom

@Dom. A very informative piece. I feel an opportunity has been missed here. This is the kind of project that would benefit from an open design competition and with a brief to be inspired by its surroundings (but not do a dead pastiche of them).

I don’t have too much of a problem with the project outside of the WHS and looks well planned on a street level. The design of the housing is decent if slightly unoriginal.

Nevertheless re the proposed college, I have dropped the Victorian Society a message. We need the best.


Is Bradford now in the North West?

By Lanky

    Hi Lanky! Our Subplot column covers the North, rather than strictly the North West. While this column has a broader remit, the regular news coverage you will see on Place North West is still very much focused on the North West and North Wales. – J

    By Julia Hatmaker

I always dread the phrase “modern interpretation”. It’s usually code for “Yup, they did some stuff in the past, and now I’m going to show you how to ignore it.”

By Matthew Jones

Petition for Place North West to report North West news only.

By Fixson

UNESCO should mind their own business. They have no legal authority.

By Unes co

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