Central Leeds: ‘So, why can’t we have a fountain that works well?’

How the Sovereign Street development would look.

How the Sovereign Street development would look.

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Councillors who will decide on plans for a showpiece office development in Leeds have made an impassioned plea – give us a water feature that works.

It is proposed to build three new office blocks on the council-owned car park in Sovereign Street, site of the Criterion Place “kissing towers” scheme that fell victim to the economic downturn.

Although planning permission has yet to be granted, work on the first block is expected to start summer 2013 and will be occupied by accountants KPMG.

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The proposals include a major greenspace with a water feature – possibly a stream – at its heart.

But while welcoming the idea, the council’s city centre plans panel noted Leeds’s poor track record when it came to fountains.

In the 1980s the Land Lane fountain, removed in the 1990s, frequently failed and more recently water features in City Square, Mandela Gardens at the bottom of Millennium Square and outside West Yorkshire Playhouse have all had their share of problems.

Coun Neil Taggart, panel chairman, said: “Cities like Birmingham have grand fountains which always seem to work and so do lots of other places. Why can’t we do it?

“I was once told we never employ proper hydrological engineers. Fountains such as the one in City Square and at the playhouse work for a bit and then pack up.

“We need to employ people with sufficient skills so that we can have water features like other cities.”

Coun Peter Gruen (Lab, Cross Gates and Whinmoor) was concerned that at a time when public finances were tight, the council would be responsible for maintaining the Sovereign Street water feature.

Moves to get work going on the Sovereign Street site – vacant since the Queen’s Hall was demolished in 1989 – has been welcomed by Coun Richard Lewis, executive member for development.

In a statement issued after the panel meeting, he said: “The Sovereign Street development provides a really exciting opportunity to create a high profile business and leisure environment in the heart of Leeds which will bring investment as well as employment opportunities.

“This development shows that Leeds is bucking the economic trend and pressing ahead with plans to encourage development and growth.”

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