A ‘get on with it’ plea has been issued over a beleaguered £32m hotel project in the heart of Leeds’s flagship arena quarter which it is claimed has turned into an “eyesore for the whole city”.
Leeds city councillor and planning panel member Peter Gruen has hit out over the Hilton hotel scheme which has been languishing in building limbo since March last year, when the original contractor went into administration.
The scheme is part funded by a £4.8m taxpayer-backed loan from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to Oxford GB Two Limited, the hotel development arm of the original contractor. However in March this year, that company also crashed.
Coun Gruen said: “It’s one of the most important locations in the whole of the city, and for more than 12 months we have seen the two cranes in the skyscape doing nothing, idle.
“And we have seen half the road system around it closed off, supposedly temporarily, but after 12 months, there’s nothing happening.
“It’s become a total eyesore for the whole of the city.”
“If the public sector behaved so irresponsibly in that way we would be absolutely and rightly held to account. Yet I find it incredible that nobody is holding the bankers to account and saying ‘get your finger out’.
“I accept it needs some sorting out, and because nobody new has come in and taken over from that point, they have to do their own due diligence.
“But they need to get on with it and do something.”
The Co-Op Bank, which is the main lender on the project, declined to comment.
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “We are in discussion with all parties concerned in order to reach a positive solution which sees work resume on site as soon as possible. Those talks are continuing and we are hopeful of a successful conclusion which will see this important city centre development completed.”
Earlier this year, Duff & Phelps were appointed Joint Administrators of Oxford GB Two Limited. The firm said at the time: “We are in discussions to seek to agree a forward sale which would enable construction work to recommence this year.”
The YEP reported earlier this year that the Leeds City Region LEP was in “active and meaningful discussions with Oxford GB Two Limited... and the senior lender, the Co-Operative Bank, to get the project back on site and ensure all necessary steps are taken to protect taxpayers’ loan investment”.