Parklife: Urban plan for Leeds’s South Bank

GREEN FOR GO: Munichs Englischer Garten urban park.
GREEN FOR GO: Munichs Englischer Garten urban park.
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Rome has the Villa Borghese, Munich has the Englischer Garten and Madrid has the Parque del Buen Retiro.

Each one is a stunning urban park, providing a relaxing retreat from the hustle and bustle of their respective cities for local residents and tourists alike.

And Leeds could soon be enjoying a similar slice of parklife as part of the drive to regenerate the city centre’s South Bank, which stretches from Holbeck to Leeds Dock along the southern side of the River Aire.

For although civic leaders want the area to deliver thousands of jobs and homes, they also hope it will be a place where people can play as well as work and rest.

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And today, on the third day of the Yorkshire Evening Post’s week-long focus on one of Europe’s biggest regeneration projects, Leeds City Council set out how it sees a large, new and green city centre park as a key ingredient of the South Bank’s leisure offering.

If all goes according to plan, it will be located next to the Aire on land around Asda House, the former Tetley Brewery site and Meadow Lane.

The park will be complemented by at least six new pieces of what is being described as “major public space”.

Council bosses are seeking input from people during the current South Bank consultation exercise on the form the park and the rest of the public space should take.

Council leader Coun Judith Blake said: “We have the possibility of creating a fantastic new city park which could become a real landmark for the South Bank and the city centre, but what sort of park should it be, what should it look like and what facilities should it have?

“Similarly with the public spaces, they could be play spaces for children and families in keeping with Leeds being a child-friendly city, or they could be a way for us to show off the incredible cultural and artistic talent in the area and the city through displays.”

Another element of the council’s vision for the South Bank is the transformation of the waterfront into a usable space with more seating and a year-round programme of events.

That programme will aim to build on the existing leisure activities at Leeds Dock, home to a growing community of digital and creative firms.

The Allied London-owned site has played host this year to events such as the Lumen Art Prize and British Street Food Awards and also staged an installation for the Light Night cultural extravaganza. Leeds Dock director Tim Gee said: “Our vision for Leeds Dock since we acquired it in 2012 has been to create a true enterprise community for the digital and creative industries as we knew they would particularly appreciate the waterside location.

“In order to support the growth of this community and create a holistic environment for everyone who is based here we have invested in creating and attracting events as well as attracting the right leisure and retail providers for everyone to benefit.” The council also wants the leisure offering on the South Bank to have a leading role in Leeds’s bid to be named European Capital of Culture 2023.

Winning the title would attract millions of extra visitors to Leeds, which would in turn give further impetus to the South Bank’s regeneration – a long-term process that is scheduled to take shape over the next 15 years or so.

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