Leeds councillors to hear latest on major ‘cultural quarter’ development

An artist's impression of the Caddick development at Quarry Hill.
An artist's impression of the Caddick development at Quarry Hill.

The developer behind an ambitious scheme in the heart of Leeds’ cultural quarter is due to address city councillors this week as they seek to forge ahead with the long-awaited project.

Caddick’s £150m vision for Quarry Hill includes offices, flats, a multi-storey car park and leisure, which will sit alongside Leeds College of Music, the Northern Ballet Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse at the eastern edge of the city centre.

First mooted almost 15 years ago, the idea was revived in 2012 and has taken on new significance as Leeds prepares for a formal bid to become European City of Culture in 2023.

It follows the breaking of ground last week for a new Leeds City College campus in Quarry Hill and the recent approval of plans for a multi-million-pound extension to the neighbouring Playhouse.

The theatre’s executive director, Robin Hawkes, said they welcomed the Caddick development and were enthusiastic about the potential of the scheme.

“We look forward to working with Caddick as our new neighbours as they energise and enliven Leeds’ cultural quarter, breathing new life into Quarry Hill,” he said.

“With our own redevelopment beginning next year and Leeds City College’s already under way, Quarry Hill is rapidly becoming one of the most exciting areas in Leeds.”

The extension to the side and front of the theatre will create a new city-facing front entrance with major remodelling works planed inside too.

Submitted by Leeds City Council with support from the Playhouse, the work will include the addition of a new studio theatre space in the Rock Void.

Meanwhile, the new £57m college campus will house its Creative and Digital Arts and Health and Social Sciences departments.

Part-funded by a £33.4m grant from the Leeds City Region Local Growth Deal, work is expected to be complete in time for the 2019/2020 academic year.

With momentum gathering with these other developments in the city’s cultural quarter, attention is now returning to Caddick’s scheme and the progress made to date on agreeing the fine details.

Concerns had been raised about the potential for delays to the scheme in January 2016 when outline planning consent was granted.

The intention then was for Caddick to develop the 685,000 sq ft site in phases, with the planned multi-storey car park to be among the first elements.

But a report prepared ahead of Thursday’s meeting said the opening of the Victoria Gate/John Lewis development across the road and availability in its car park meant Caddick now wanted to prioritise the housing, with 515 flats now proposed instead of the original 428.

Coun Neil Walshaw, who sits on Leeds City Council’s city plans panel, said the timescale was likely be a key focus of the talks.

“The fact they’re coming with an update promotes confidence,” he said. “The big thing I’m interested in is the timeline for the development.

“We’re really keen to see this come forward because we think it will bring quality design.”

He said the public realm aspects of the scheme would also be crucial should Leeds succeed in its City of Culture bid and see an influx of visitors to the cultural quarter six years from now.

“What we would want to see from this developer is just how they’re going to tackle 2023,” he said. “They’ve got to make sure the public realm merges so it’s not just jackhammers and big screens.”

Scalextric electric car racing set. PIC: PA

Christmas six of the best: Toys from the 1960s and 1970s