October Round-Up

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October Planning Round-Up

The Trust’s Planning Committee continues to meet on a fortnightly basis, although numbers do go up and down a bit through the holiday season – several new members have expressed an interest in joining and have attended ‘trial’ sessions to see how we work. We would still welcome others with an interest in the city and its future.

Only one external presentation this month but it was one which could play an important role in determining the character of the east end of the city. You will have seen cranes in place on the Leeds City College development next to the Playhouse (they seem to be working seven days a week here!) and, subject to final funding approval, the refurbishment of the Playhouse itself should start next summer. Leeds City Council is investing almost £2 million in improving the public realm between these two sites, providing a high quality ‘gateway’ featuring significant greenspace.

Our presentation related to plans for the first of the new blocks to be built on what is now Quarry Hill car park. The site’s owners intend to build two blocks totalling 515 apartments to rent, with associated ground floor commercial uses. We felt the buildings, up to 16 floors high, were an appropriate response to the site, with materials picking up those on the historic Blomfield buildings in Eastgate. It is proposed to use the public open space included for events linked to the cultural institutions already there. As there is spare capacity in the new John Lewis car park, construction of the proposed Quarry Hill MSCP will be postponed but the landowner is talking to hotel operators and student housing developers about other parts of the site. After so many years, will Quarry Hill finally become the vibrant location it should be?

On another evening, the committee viewed a presentation prepared to illustrate the Leeds BID’s work on enhancing the city centre public realm. There is a lot going on, from giant murals on the office block over the station through decorated site hoardings, special events and art installations – there are plans for many other schemes to help make the ‘City Less Grey’.

Turning to planning applications, we objected to plans for a large digital advertising screen to be attached to the side of the Listed York Road Library, now being sensitively converted to a gym – we felt this would both distract drivers and detract from the appearance of the historic building. We commented on plans to refurbish Benson House, the existing office block next to the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Wellington Street – we felt it was a fine building of its time and, as some of the alterations clash with original features to be retained, we queried the justification for some changes.

We made no comment on many other schemes, including refurbishment of the Braimes frontage (Hunslet Road), Low Fold housing (changes to the design but retaining the principles of this innovative scheme) and several shop front changes. We also made no comment on plans to replace many of the city centre BT phone boxes with ‘phone poles’ offering wi-fi and a free use telephone alongside a digital advertisement. Although we had concerns over the adverts, the phone boxes to be replaced are already ‘decorated’ with posters and the new poles will be fewer in number and on a smaller, less obstructive, footprint. However, with regard to the 75 private phone boxes proposed for the city centre, we have been notified that the applicant has appealed against refusal – we have restated our strong objections.

Updates on previous applications include approval to convert the Yorkshire Bank in Chapel Allerton to a bar, while that in HSBC Guiseley was refused. Work has started on schemes at Belgrave Place, York Road Library and Woodhouse Square – perhaps other schemes will actually go ahead and not just remain ‘on the shelf’?

We also considered other news which might be of interest to members:

  • we have seen a number of schemes to replace large estate pubs with extensive grounds by housing – this is an illustration of a changing market which sees more town centre bars and fewer suburban ‘locals’, although (ever contrary) Sam Smith’s is proposing a new pub on Coal Road where extensive new housing is proposed in the next few years
  • work is to start on construction of Moortown Park, just off Street Lane
  • there are plans to rebuild Fearnville Leisure Centre, probably elsewhere on its extensive site
  • plans are to be drawn up to improve the road junctions at Dawson’s Corner, Fink Hill (Horsforth) and the Dyneley Arms (Pool)
  • by the end of 2018, Transport for the North is seeking to roll out a transport charge card supported by a ‘fair fare promise’ (just like London’s Oyster) – you will automatically pay the lowest possible fare for any journey or mix of journeys, so you will not have to decide which ‘day rover-type’ ticket to buy in advance
  • work will start soon on two new office buildings at Wellington Place to house the regional Government office and its 6,000 civil servants – this will bring great new vitality to this end of the city centre, balancing the work proposed at Quarry Hill.

Next month more about the Leeds Market, as well as other news from the Leeds development sector.

Mike

Planning Committee Chair

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