Leeds City Council has acquired the historic St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church as part of the Morley Town Deal, funded by a £24.3 million grant. The church will be transformed into a technology-focused learning and skills center, aiming to improve adult vocational training, address digital literacy, and promote economic growth in the community.
What is the significance of Leeds City Council acquiring St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church?
Leeds City Council has acquired the historic St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church to transform it into a technology-focused learning and skills center. This initiative is part of the Morley Town Deal, funded by a £24.3 million Towns Fund grant. The redevelopment aims to enhance local adult vocational training and address digital literacy, bridging skill gaps and promoting economic growth.
In a noteworthy transaction, Leeds City Council has acquired the St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church. The Grade II listed Victorian building, a staple of Morley’s architectural heritage, has been secured for the community’s future benefit. Situated on Commercial Street, this landmark has been central to Morley’s spiritual life, particularly since 2008 when the congregation moved from another local church. Tragically, the original church succumbed to a devastating fire in 2010, leaving it in ruins.
The recent acquisition is pivotal, as it marks a transformative phase in the Morley Town Deal—a comprehensive investment strategy designed to catalyze the town’s development. The council’s vision repurposes the church into a learning and skills center. The Luminate Education Group will oversee this transformation, which aims to enhance adult vocational training, especially in burgeoning technological fields.
Leeds City Council executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, Councillor Helen Hayden, commented on the strategic purchase, saying, “The purchase of St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church is a key step in delivering the Morley Town Deal’s adult education ambitions.” She further underlined the public’s interest: “Public consultation has shown there is a real thirst for a local technology-focused learning provision in Morley.”
Funding and Future Plans
The financial underpinnings of this acquisition stem entirely from the £24.3 million awarded to Morley through the Towns Fund grant by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in 2022. This fund is a significant contributor to the nation’s urban regeneration initiatives. Leeds City College has promised to further invest in the redevelopment of the structure, operational costs, and the educational programmes.
- Towns Fund grant: £24.3 million
- Additional investments: Leeds City College contributions
- Redevelopment: Focus on technology and IT skills
Jo Dye, Director of Adult Curriculum at Leeds City College, expressed her dedication to the project: “This campus will allow us to create a strong local education provision so that people in Morley and surrounding areas can learn new skills and gain the necessary qualifications they need to progress to further studies or improve their career prospects.” She emphasised the critical nature of digital literacy: “The technology centre, as part of the campus, will aim to bridge the skills gaps in digital and IT, which are vital for current and future jobs across many industries.”
Community Impact and Consultations
The implications for the community are profound, with the Learning and Skills Centre set to become a beacon of educational excellence. Gerald Jennings, Chair of the Morley Town Deal Board, underscored the board’s dedication: “The purchase of St Mary’s in the Wood highlights the Town Deal Board’s commitment to not only the infrastructure of Morley but also long-term investment in its people.” He confidently asserted the centre’s future role in the community, “I have no doubt the Morley Learning and Skills Centre will become an educational centre of excellence in the coming years and provide access to learning that the people of Morley have called for through our consultations.”
The groundwork for the initiative begins with consultations slated for early 2024, paving the way for an opening in the 2025/26 academic year. The anticipation is that these consultations will yield a curriculum that is attuned to the community’s needs and future-proofed in terms of employability in an ever-evolving job market.
For more details on the Morley Town Deal and its various projects, interested parties can find information at the following link: Morley Town Deal.
Towns Fund and the Nationwide Impact
The Towns Fund is a cornerstone of the government’s strategy to rejuvenate towns and ensure long-lasting economic expansion. The fund represents a commitment to enhance multiple facets of town life, including but not limited to urban regeneration and skills development. Morley is among the beneficiaries to have received a substantial amount to execute its Town Investment Plan aimed at stimulating economic growth.
- Towns Fund: A national regeneration initiative
- Town Deals: Over £2.35 billion committed across the UK
- Projects: Approximately 700 projects funded
Since July 2021, all 101 towns with submitted proposals have been offered Town Deals, with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) having earmarked extensive funds for projects that span the length and breadth of the country, signaling an ambitious blueprint for urban renewal and prosperity.
In conclusion, the acquisition of St Mary’s in the Wood by Leeds City Council is a critical juncture in Morley’s Town Deal and a broader national strategy. It embodies a commitment to education, community development, and the integration of cutting-edge technologies into the fabric of local skill sets. This strategic move is expected to yield substantial benefits for Morley’s residents and contribute to the town’s vibrant future.
- Leeds City Council has acquired St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church to transform it into a technology-focused learning and skills center as part of the Morley Town Deal.
- The acquisition marks a transformative phase in the Morley Town Deal, aiming to enhance adult vocational training and address digital literacy.
- The funding for the acquisition comes from a £24.3 million Towns Fund grant, with additional investments from Leeds City College.
- The redevelopment will focus on technology and IT skills, bridging skill gaps and promoting economic growth in the community.
- The consultations for the initiative will begin in early 2024, with the aim to open the center in the 2025/26 academic year.