The huge land deals behind the biggest developments in Hull
The old ABC cinema building being prpared for demolition in 2004
By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 9 Jul 2018
With Hull City Council currently involved in a number of major deals in the city centre, Angus Young takes a look at some of the authority's past and present strategic land acquisations.
Hull was among the first cities in the UK to establish a municipal-owned airfield.
Back in 1929 Hull Corporation (the former name of the council) bought nearly 120 acres of land near the village to Hedon to establish an airfield.
Part of the site had previously been used as a racecourse with the rest as farmland but the council had an eye on the booming new aeronautical industry.
The official opening of Hedon airfield in 1929.
An aircraft manufacturing factory at the site only lasted two years but regular passenger flights to other UK cities and even Amsterdam put the airfield on the map.
During the Second World War the site was taken over by the Air Ministry but once the conflict ended it was never used again as a commercial airport.
Today the council still owns the land and earlier this year it struck an agreement on a land disposal deal with a development consortium hoping to build a £200m energy and technology park subject to the scheme getting the planning go-ahead from East Riding Council.
Instead of being Hull's answer to Heathrow Airport, it could eventually house 1,000 people working in a gas-fired power station, a data centre and battery storage facility, light industry, storage and distribution units.
As land grabs go, Hull Corporation's purchase of an entire valley in the Yorkshire Dales to submerge most of it with water takes some beating.
The ambitious plan was launched in 1932 when the council bought Farndale, which lies 11 miles north of Kirbymoorside.
It's now regarded as one of the jewels of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, famous for its Spring displays of wild daffodils.
The Farndale valley in North Yorkshire was once owned by Hull Corporation
But 80 years ago Hull's civic leaders had plans to create a giant reservoir there, 2.5 miles long and one-third of a mile wide, with the longest dam embankment in the country.
The dam wall was designed to be 140ft high while all the existing houses and farms in upper Farndale would have been demolished and their occupants re-located.
The idea was to build a reservoir to supply water to Hull which, at the time, was expanding rapidly in both population and industry.
The scheme never get off the ground but Hull remained the landowner and the project was revived in 1965.
Despite ferocious local opposition, MPs initially backed the plans but a dispute over who should fund the building of the reservoir eventually led to it being shelved.
Eventually, the privatisation of the water industry in the late 1980s took the land out of Hull's hands altogether.
The long-term fruits of two pivotal deals by Hull Corporation to buy redundant dockland during the 20th century are much in evidence today.
In 1930 the council spent £100,000 on acquiring what is now Queens Gardens, turning it into a city centre park.
The Spurn Lightship in Hull Marina
Thirty-eight years later the authority splashed the cash again, this time buying the Humber, Railway and Junction docks in the city centre along with the former headquarters of the Hull Dock Company in Queen Victoria Square.
The £500,000 deal brought a large but mainly derelict estate under council ownership, eventually paving the way for a series of regeneration schemes.
The old HQ was converted into what is still the city's Maritime Museum while Humber Dock and Railway Dock became a new base for private boat and yacht owners as a marina. The council also managed to persuade the Trusthouse Forte group to build a new hotel now operated as a Holiday Inn.
Junction Dock, also known as Princes Dock, proved a harder nut to crack until plans were given the go-ahead to build what is now the Princess Quay Shopping Centre.
Hull Corporation's post-war slum clearance programme relied heavily on the council buying mainly agricultural land on the outskirts of the city to build modern new estates such as Orchard Park, Longhill and Greatfield.
The daddy of them all was Bransholme where the council took advantage of the 1946 Acquisition of Land Act to buy several farms in the area along with their surrounding land.
Parish land in neighbouring Sutton and Wawne was also transferred to the ownership of Hull to provide more sites for new housing development.
Although residents move into the first new homes in Bransholme in 1967, land was still being bought up with the last farm at Noddle Hill eventually being demolished a year later.
In 50 years, the population, Bransholme's population has gone from a handful of farming families to 18,500 people.
For most of the last century this triangular patch of land at the mouth of the River Hull was home to a ramshackle collection of small boat yards and businesses.
By the 1980s it was largely abandoned and there seemed little value in it until the idea was hatched to build a state-of-the-art aquarium overlooking the Humber.
Twisted timbers on Sammy's Point in a photograph taken in 1959 with the Humber ferry in the background
The city council brought the land under its ownership, providing the platform for an ultimately successful bid for Millennium Commission funding to build The Deep.
The rest is history and what was once a bit of an eyesore is now home to the city's biggest tourist attraction and its exotic family of sharks, jellyfish and penguins.
History has repeated itself in what Hull's civic leaders once billed as "the North's premier street".
Ferensway was opened in 1931 after the old corporation bought up land in the area, demolished dozens of tightly-packed terraces and constructed a grand new road lined with grand new buildings.
The old ABC cinema building being prpared for demolition in 2004
However, their dreams of a rival to London's Regent Street crumbled when the Second World War effectively halted its development, leaving several plots empty for decades to come.
The council stepped in again in the late 1990s when it assembled a 40-acre brownfield site for re-development as a new shopping centre.
The old council-owned bus station made way for the St Stephen's complex along with the derelict former ABC cinema, the electricity board office block next door, the first Hull Truck Theatre in Spring Street and the original Albemarle msuic centre fronting Ferensway itself.
Who would be interested in buying a cobbled street full of rickety old buildings previously used by generations generations of wholesale fruit traders?
Somehow it was inevitable the council should take on the challenge of transforming run-down Humber Street after a private sector-led scheme collapsed at the height of the 2008 financial crash.
Humber Street Sesh
Acquiring the properties as part of a deal to re-locate the remaining traders to a new purpose-built market at Priory Park was the easy bit.
Refurbishing those capable of withstanding the rigours of modern construction methods has been another story and the ambitious facelift is still on-going but with its clutch of new bars, restaurants, shops and new homes, Humber Street is now regarded as the city's trendiest place to be be.
Another derelict city centre site, another case of the council coming to the rescue.
It's believed around £5m has been spent by the authority acquiring the empty former BHS, Co-op and Edwin Davies department stores.
New plans for the courtyard area and retail space on Albion Square
Later this year they will all be demolished to make a larger site, which including the existing Albion Street car park, ready for re-development.
The council's plans for the proposed mixed-use £130m Albion Square scheme are expected to be submitted later this summer, mapping out where new shops, restaurants, apartments and a new ice arena will be built together with a multi-storey car park.
Myton Retail Park
As revealed last week, the next major council acquisition in the city centre would well be this half-empty retail park overlooking the junction of Ferensway and Castle Street.
The park's Saudi Arabian owners Jadwa Investments, who also own Princes Quay, have recently invited the council to buy the site.
The former Staples store on the Myton Street retail park
With the council's flagship new £36m Bonus Arena set to open just across the road next month, any deal would give the authority the chance to market a prime site for re-development to complement the new 3,500-capacity venue.