In July 2023, Leeds City Council successfully secured the acquisition of St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church in central Morley for an undisclosed amount.

The Victorian building, classified as Grade II, is situated on Commercial Street and has been the home of the St Mary’s in the Wood congregation since its relocation from a nearby church in 2008. The primary church suffered fire damage in 2010 and remains in a derelict state.

This acquisition is a crucial component of the Morley Town Deal’s investment in the town. The building’s purpose will shift from a church to a learning and skills centre for Morley, overseen by the Luminate Education Group. The centre is anticipated to concentrate on enhancing skills for adults through vocational training, with a particular emphasis on new and emerging technologies.

Regarding the purchase, Councillor Helen Hayden, the Leeds City Council executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, remarked, “Acquiring St Mary’s in the Wood United Reformed Church is a significant stride in realizing the adult education ambitions outlined in the Morley Town Deal.”

Commenting on the purchase, Leeds City Council executive member for sustainable development and infrastructure, Councillor Helen Hayden, said: “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.

“Public consultation has shown there is a real thirst for a local technology-focused learning provision in Morley. I am looking forward to seeing the plans and curriculum for this valuable resource develop over the coming months.”

All funding for the purchase of the building comes from the £24.3 million Towns Fund grant awarded by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to the Morley Town Deal in 2022. Leeds City College will commit further funds for the redevelopment of the building, running costs, and development of the curriculum.

Jo Dye, Director of Adult Curriculum at Leeds City College, said: “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.

“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. We’re proud that our facilities will allow us to deliver focused training to help the people and businesses of Morley, and Leeds, flourish.”

Chair of the Morley Town Deal Board, Gerald Jennings, added: “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.

“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.”

Consultations on the new learning and skills centre and its curriculum are scheduled to commence in early 2024, with the college expected to open and commence operations in 2025/26.

For additional information on the Morley Town Deal and its projects, please visit: https://morleytowndeal.commonplace.is/