The Concept: 2015

KEEP concept 3

“Think The Centre for Alternative Technology (renewables research and education presented as a visitor attraction*), powering The Biospherics Foundation (innovative closed-loop food, timber and other products), set in a picturesque,  flood-resistant post industrial  park like Amsterdam’s Westergasfabriek – with enhanced community facilities, new jobs, recreational amenities and a green transport corridor”  Tom Bliss –

*CAT are now in fact involved, as partners with the two main universities in Leeds and KVDT in the Sustain project



Kirkstall Valley, with its iconic Abbey, historic mills, listed Humphrey Repton park, river, canal, museums, golf courses, nature reserves and green spaces, is one of the major underdeveloped assets of Leeds. And over the years many have suggested ways that it could be sustainably linked, enhanced, protected, cleaned and greened-up, for the benefit of local communities and the city at large.

KEEP Banner Photos

Following approaches from Kirkstall Valley Park (KVP) to Feed Leeds, and co-incidental approaches by potential eco-food businesses to Leeds Beckett University, Tom Bliss (of both organisations and UoL), and Architectural Engineering tutor Petros Tsitnidis, set a challenge to their Brazilian 2015 Summer School interns from the Science Without Borders (SwB) exchange programme: Could the existing aspirations of KVP and like-minded client groups be furthered and even realised by the establishment of an Eco Education Park in Kirkstall – one galvanised by investment in innovative closed-loop food and associated micro generation schemes?

This is what the team came up with:

cropped-lust-keep-logo.jpgThe Place
A major new city park where the usual (and already planned – by KVP) public amenities are enabled and enhanced by educational, research-focused visitor attractions, sustainable product outlets (delivering jobs and revenue for Leeds), and improved community facilities

cropped-lust-keep-logo.jpgThe Partnership
A collection of businesses, city / community services, and community enterprises
each operating independently, but with maximum co-operation for optimal internal recycling

cropped-lust-keep-logo.jpgThe Brand
Used by both park and partnership to express a joint commitment to closed loop, low carbon research, education and enterprise – and to drive sales

(The Summer School proposals from August 2015 appear below – here)

Diagrama 8 CS6

Interactive Map:



Student Projects 5: 2018 + “D+C”

In autumn 2018, we ran an additional module in the KEEP area, called Design and Community. This is project undertaken by all 3rd year degree students that is specifically designed to improve their skills in community engagement.

They work initially as a group, researching the site and relevant topics, then engage with local community stakeholders and the general public to develop a strategy for their sites.

Then they work alone, to develop designs for different areas and/or alternatives for the same area, and present these to community stakeholders and staff.

In the final phase, they take the feedback from this session and combine all work to date into a single coherent scheme for each site, which it is hoped that the local community might then consider taking forward to the next stage.

In 2018 there were two sites;

Burley Village Green (aka Burley Bottom Park)

Group A Portfolio

and the woods between Kirkstall Island Farm and Kirkstall Road.

Group B Portfolio

With many thanks to the people of Kirkstall and Burley who kindly gave up their time and ideas to help.

Kirkstall Island Farm (KIF): 2018

Leeds Beckett Landscape Dpt, Feed Leeds, Kirkstall Valley Park, Kirkstall Valley Development Trust (KVDT), Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, and other interested parties have been working on options for the future of the council agricultural land at Burley Mills – in keeping with all of the above.

KIF Logo3

A concept scheme / discussion document was created by Leeds Beckett staff and researchers, and then developed by Feed Leeds as a ‘co-managed’ project with KVDT. The scheme flows directly from the Arup report to create a Community / Commercial Farm, Community Park and Nature Reserve.

The document’s original purpose was to engage with the simultaneous threat and opportunity presented by FAS2 – which was always likely to be game-changing. FAS2 might potentially have done away with all the land (to make flood lagoons), or saved most of it and provided seed corn for necessary infrastructure – or anything between. It later emerges that the farm should escape major flood works, but then it was reported that it might be entirely planted with trees, and the jury remains out. We have been advised that should the farm survive, the flood risk should drop over time as natural flood measures upstream come into effect. The opportunity for the farm project to benefit from FAS2 investment remains. The revised design below therefore includes fewer new water channels because water retention is no longer a priority. Channels do remain a good way to provide security with enhanced wildlife and amenity, so we have retained one in our proposals – with lifting bridges to provide controlled access, along with two of the proposed river bridges and the associated new paths. The revised scheme also reinstates a major role for Leeds 2023 in the form of a performance space well away from housing, with the whole of the park area being a legacy resource for the 2023 Festival.

The Concept Document is here: KIF-5.compressed

The scheme is subject to permissions from LCC, major funding, and local buy-in. The group taking these ideas forward plan to consult with the local community, using well-established Participatory Design techniques, as soon as they have worked out what is feasible. They can be contacted by emailing

NB Tom Bliss and Feed Leeds withdrew from this project in October 2018,
see: 10 10 22 Feed Leeds Minutes Oct 2018 (PUBLISHED)
It is now being progressed, to a slightly different vision, by KVDT

KIF title page

updated master plan 02062018






Centre for Sustainable Cities: 2017

KVDT’s Leeds Centre for Sustainable Cities – now named SUSTAIN – is an evolution of the KEEP concept based at Abbey Mills and St Anns Mills:

The main partners are KVDT, University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett and The Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).

KVDT are now leading on the development of the Farm area, using a different name and concept to Kirkstall Island Farm.


And could we have these on all the weirs?



Growing Better CIC Vertical Farm: 2017

Steps are now being taken towards a KEEP-style vertical farm, by Growing Better CIC

Phase 1, the test bench seen in the video above, has proved the process and established a market for microgreens.

Phase 2 will install a shipping container, currently being fitted out following a successful crowdfunding campaign, at the West Leeds Activity Centre (WLAC), to the north west corner of the KEEP site. A second unit is also being developed at Unity Business Centre on Roundhay Rd.

Phases 3 and 4 are planned to develop into a much larger zero-carbon hydroponic factory, housed either in one of the mills, or in a purpose-built facility, as suggested by the KEEP concept.

A linked project will, it is hoped, grow mushrooms from spent coffee grounds.

Growing Better CIC is run by, among others, three members of the Feed Leeds committee, and there are plans for other Feed Leeds food projects to be housed at WLAC, including a fruit tree nursery, community growing, a composting business and a school food hub run by LESSN, to tie the existing work of the centre with education around food and food growing.