Plans lodged for £3.5m events and exhibition centre at Wetherby's Bowcliffe Hall

Bowcliffe Hall.
Bowcliffe Hall.

A £3.5m events and exhibition centre could be built in the grounds of a historic mansion on the outskirts of Leeds that once hosted Winston Churchill as a party guest.

Submissions have been put to Leeds City Council for the two pronged development at Bowcliffe Hall, Wetherby by The Bayford Group.

An exhibition and events centre, to be known as The Wheel, will be built in the grounds and gardens of the 27 acre estate and an existing office building which dates back to the 1960s will be replaced with new offices in a building that will be known as The Gatehouse.

It would take two years for the development to come to fruition and the applicants hope that construction will start later this year if planning permission is granted.

Discussions between The Brayford Group and council planners have been taking place since 2017 prior to the formal application being lodged. A separate application has also been made for changes to the grade II listed Bowcliffe Hall. In that time alterations have been made to plans and while Leeds City Council appear supportive of the principal behind the development - there are concerns about it being in the green belt.

The Brayford Group says that over the last two years, 27 events have been lost due to the event spaces at the Estate not being adequate. This includes potential bookings from companies such as Deloitte, Squire Patton Boggs, Hermes and as well as charity events.
Several of these companies went on to hold their events at venues outside of Leeds.

A spokesperson said: "The Wheel is, in part, a reaction to this issue and will provide a larger and more flexible events and exhibition centre at the estate, improving the attractiveness of Bowcliffe Hall and the Leeds region as whole, to prestigious companies and cliental."

The Wheel will draw on ties with the Drivers’ Club, an exclusive private members’ club based in the eastern wing of the Hall with décor inspired by the 1920s and the Golden Age of Motoring. The Drivers’ Club is the location of the largest private collection of automotive art in the UK, outside of the RAC and The Estate has become increasingly popular with car manufactures who wish to host product launches and corporate events and The Wheel will cater for that.

The new Gatehouse building will have space for ten offices.

It is also suggested within the planning documents that the development will lead to an increased wage generation of around £667,000 per year and £3.3.m over a period of five years.

History

The origins of the Estate date from the early 19th century. William Robinson, a businessman in the cotton spinning trade from Manchester, began construction of the Estate in 1805.

In 1920 Bowcliffe Hall was purchased by Robert Blackburn and it would be the last time the house changed hands for residential purposes. Robert Blackburn, born in Kirkstall, and educated at Leeds University, was associated with advancing the aviation industry as well as the automotive industry with the founding of the Blackburn Aircraft and Motor Company in 1914.

In May 1956 the Bowcliffe Estate was taken over by fuel company Hargreaves for use as offices. Hargreaves were a national coal, oil and aggregates distributor, supplier and wholesaler who had offices all over the UK with Bowcliffe Hall used as their Head Office. The business was taken over in 1987 by Coalite Coal and Chemicals plc.

The Bayford Group acquired the Hall and Estate in 1988.