Proposed 23 floors student accommodation twoer seen from Millennium Square

PLANNING ISSUES – February 2024

Here we are a month into 2024 already but, with three meetings to cover, it’s straight into the latest planning and transport news.

A presentation in early January covered proposals for the provision of over 1,100 student bedspaces in buildings over the Merrion Centre. Just under a quarter would be in a re-skinned Wade House, the existing 12-floor vacant office block over the shopping mall – although a classic example of 1960s design, the external envelope leaks energy and its replacement around the existing structure is an appropriate response. The remaining bedrooms would be in a new 35-storey tower block built on the site currently occupied by Home Bargains and the disused cinema above. While we welcomed the design of the building as being something different from the ‘white boxes’ in the vicinity, we felt the block was too bulky and too tall for its location. It would dominate views from Millennium Square, Queen Square and Albion Street – as a result, we felt we had to object to the scheme.

Proposed 23 storey student accommodation tower seen from Millennium Square


Another big batch of applications to review over the three meetings and this time ‘supports’, ‘objections’ and ‘no comment’ were pretty equally represented – in addition to the Merrion Centre scheme above, we objected to the following projects:

  • Joseph’s Well, Westgate: we made informal comments following a presentation in October but our views were not reflected in the submitted application – we felt the proposed student accommodation block was too tall, bore little relationship to the existing historic buildings and would have an adverse impact on the adjoining Conservation Area
  • Eastlands, Otley: located alongside the Pool Road Garden Centre, we felt the proposed Care Home was poorly designed and awkwardly accessed through the car parks
  • Sayner Lane, Hunslet: we felt this 17 storey block of apartments squeezed onto a tiny site was over-development, with no external amenity space for residents and little consideration of townscape impact
  • video advert screen, St John’s Centre: facing up Woodhouse Lane, we felt this would dominate this key junction and adversely affect the Conservation Area opposite
  • housing site, Armley Ridge Road: a number of schemes have been submitted for this vacant site on the junction with Town Street but the latest still does not respect the neighbouring historic cottages, with its central ‘street’ dominated by car parking
  • 70-72 Otley Road: plans to convert Giorgio’s into an Indian restaurant envisage new windows and fascias but these do not relate to the original windows above and introduce a discordant note to the historic Cottage Road frontage
  • 110 Kirkgate: plans are to expand the amusement arcade (former bank) and old bus information office on Vicar Lane by building a ‘café’ at first floor level – we felt this was an ‘impossible’ scheme as the only access to the crudely designed extension would be a tiny spiral staircase
  • Marsden House, Burley Road: this student accommodation block is recognisable by its multi-coloured fins but the fascia is failing and needs to be replaced – we felt the proposed design was too ‘flat’ and would benefit from greater interest
  • former ATS building, Regent Street: although this revised scheme features a lower PBSA tower than before, the design and massing still bears little relationship to the retained elements – the mix of built forms and materials will do nothing to enhance the adjoining Mabgate Conservation Area
  • Aire Place Mills, Kirkstall Road: an application has been submitted to demolish sound historic buildings now occupied by Seagulls Paint, Open Source Arts and other small businesses – although the site would benefit from redevelopment, demolition should not go ahead without agreed long-term plans.


The Trust supported a wide range of applications:

  • Queen’s House, Wellington Street: refurbishment of this historic building alongside the Majestic
  • Bramham Hall: while we supported the overall aspirations of the scheme, including contemporary design homes and apartments in the grounds of the derelict hall, we did feel that more of the hall could be retained and the ‘affordable homes’ element of the site improved
  • new offices, White Rose: an unused car park alongside the new White Rose Station is to be redeveloped to provide modern offices behind a glazed frontage
  • Temple Works Gatehouse: this small listed building alongside the ‘elephant warehouse’ in Holbeck will be sensitively restored – we are still hoping the British Library project for the main block will go ahead soon
  • 26-27 Park Row: conversion of this former bank to a restaurant proposes lowering two windows to give diners a view out and repainting of the ornate ironwork in its original green colour
  • Lower Kirkgate: we supported a scheme to refurbish the block of derelict and fire-damaged buildings close to the railway bridge – these have been standing unused for too long
  • Kirkstall Forge: the installation of a large public art feature
  • Waterloo House, Wellington Street: well-presented plans for sensitive repair of this historic building.
Proposed public art at Kirkstall Forge – ‘The Cusp’


We made no comment on a number of projects, including the recladding of Broadcasting Tower (the ‘rusty’ building on Woodhouse Lane – the steel panels will be removed, insulation replaced and existing panels returned), Centaur House (Great George Street – conversion of gym to student accommodation) and another disused gym within the LGI car park being converted to NHS offices.

Key updates to report are that a new block of apartments in Cross Green Lane has been approved and the revised Site Allocation Plan for Leeds has been adopted. The latter includes land east of ELOR at Thorpe Park being allocated for employment use. We objected to this when it was first proposed as it is a very prominent site when seen from ELOR southbound – the line of ELOR should be taken to be the edge of the city.

Other matters discussed at meetings included the following:

  • progress with the Connecting Leeds pedestrian/cycle projects at Great George Street/Merrion Street and in the northeast corner of the city centre (Templar Street/Bridge Street)
  • work on the Trust’s Eastside Project to transform the area around the Bus Station and the Minster from ‘motorway city’ to a pedestrian-friendly setting for the listed church – there will be more on this elsewhere in Outlook over the next few months
  • details have emerged of the city’s retail performance over recent months – overall footfall is down 14% on pre-covid levels (same as national average and 2.2% up on 2022) but up almost 12% over 2022 in the pre-Christmas period (pull of the market?)
  • on the transport side, at the station morning peak is down by 20% but weekend use is 120% of pre-covid (recovered more than Birmingham or Manchester) – on the buses, usage is at 90% of pre-covid, with usage by the elderly down to 60% while figures young people are higher
  • work on the New Briggate Heritage Action Zone is winding down but unfortunately not all the buildings will have been transformed as originally intended
  • an initiative with the Leeds Cycling Campaign to help deliver secure bike parking around the city centre so that cyclists can be confident that their bikes will still be there when they return from the shops.

The committee is now fully back at work and there appears to be no let-up in the flow of applications to review. However, we are also initiating a number of proactive projects on subjects such climate change, mass rapid transit, cycling infrastructure and the demand for student housing – if you might be interested in helping in these areas, please contact the office.

Mike Piet

Chair of LCT Planning Committee

Owl illustration
Flowers illustration footer