Thorp Arch Trading Estate

Thorp Arch Trading Estate

Thorp Arch Trading Estate occupies major part of a former Royal Ordnance Factory, (ROF) ROF Thorpe Arch, in the City of Leeds metropolitan borough, West Yorkshire, England close to Wetherby. The trading estate is now divided into industrial and retail space. There is still much evidence of its former use around the site. It is similar in style and layout to former ROF Aycliffe in Darlington, County Durham.

The War years

The Royal Ordnance Factory was built to supply the British forces with munitions during the World War II. The site was ideal, it had a railway running adjacent to it (the Harrogate to Church Fenton line), open space and the site was not in a supposedly strategic bombing area. The railways were expanded and sidings built (these are still evident in certain areas of the estate) and buildings constructed around them, many with the flat concrete roofs. The retail park is still set in semi-underground bunkers, with grassy banks running up the sides of the buildings.

Post war development

The Royal Ordnance Factory closed completely in 1957. However with a boom in the construction trade and many others in the immediate post war years, the site found many new industries requiring the space it could offer.

George Moore (founder of Moores Furniture Group) bought the site near Wetherby in 1960s, converting it into a trading estate.

A major development on the estate (and certainly the biggest employer) is the British Library lending division. This is the British Library's second site, the St Pancras site in Central London is the main site. The British Library Boston Spa, as it is known, is is housed in a large eight story concrete building (with windows set in narrow slits to avoid light damage to the books) and many smaller, with newer buildings set around it.

Moores Furniture Group furniture factory is situated on the estate, as is a Leeds City Council household recycling centre and a sewerage works. There are many other small businesses situated on the estate.

Thorp Arch retail park

The Thorp Arch Retail Park is perhaps the most notable part for local people. It is set in semi-underground bunkers and many of the retailers have grassy banks up the exterior walls. The retail park houses Brooks Discount Retailers, DFS (formerly Northern Upholstery), Empire Direct (formerly Miller Brothers), The Sofa Centre, The Greenery Garden Centre, a car showroom and a cafe.

The retail park once had a branch of Texas Homecare, however due to the small size of these units, it was necessary to set the shop across two units set several hundred yards apart. This did not keep in with the clean cut, purpose built style of the new Texas branches, and so they were closed; and the Texas Homecare chain no longer exists. The retail park also formerly housed Bargain Street (a now defunct West Yorkshire discount clothes and household good retailer).

The future

The future of the Thorp Arch Trading Estate is unclear. No plans have been put forward to properly redevelop it, however the land value is high and occupation density low so future redevelopment seems in itself likely.

In the 1990s there was a plan to turn the adjacent village of Walton West Yorksire into a New Town, although this never got off the ground, green field areas around the site have been developed into residential areas. It seems likely with the high demand for houses in Leeds, especially in the Wetherby and Boston Spa area that there will be many more residential developments to come in this area in the future.

Notable features

  • The street names are all uniform, with roads running in a North-South direction named "Street 1", "Street 2", "Street 8", etc., and those crossing them named "Avenue A", "Avenue B", etc.
  • Running along the sixty year old lamp posts on certain parts of the estate are electricity cables.
  • The retail park is still set in grass covered bunkers.
  • There are still level crossings on certain streets, despite the railway being dismantled since 1965.
  • The retail park is home to a large playground, formerly home to an old tank and armoured personnel carrier and still home to a large mock pirate ship (about 40' in height). The ship can be played on by children.

References

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