Skyscraper city: Tall towers boom for Leeds?

The Leeds city centre skyline with Bridgewater Place, the Town Hall, Leeds University etc.
The Leeds city centre skyline with Bridgewater Place, the Town Hall, Leeds University etc.
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AN array of new skyscrapers could transform the Leeds skyline in the next few years, reversing the disappointments of almost a decade ago when the recession killed off an anticipated ‘tall towers’ boom.

Blueprints for eight skyscrapers in the city centre – on three key sites considered vital to the city’s long-term economic vision – are already in the planning process.

And now, it has been revealed that council bosses are expecting the number of applications for buildings with ‘supertower’ potential to soar.

A special ‘tall towers’ task force has even been set up, and will meet this Friday to lay down concrete guidelines for developers.

The Yorkshire Evening Post has previously reported on proposals for five skyscrapers in Bridge Street, and a major building in Wade Street which was dubbed Leeds’s answer to the Empire State Building.

And plans chiefs will meet tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the latest proposals for a 40-storey supertower and another 25-level building in Globe Road.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, city plans panel chairman Neil Walshaw said the council “absolutely” welcomes proposals for tall buildings, and that there was no reason why Leeds couldn’t go really big and bold and eventually have a Gherkin or a Shard-like structure of its own.

He said the authority was expecting a “wave of developments” of the kind.

However he also stressed: “We don’t want a repeat of Lumiere and the Kissing Towers. What we want is certainty.”

He said the renewed developer interest in building supertowers was a “pretty ringing endorsement of where we are as a city”, adding that “if someone is building 40 storeys, they are thinking big”.

And addressing potential developers directly, he added: “We want you to step up a level

“We are not going to insist on Gherkins, but innovative is good.

“Let’s go for iconic.”

Civic experts have also told the YEP there are “whispers” of many other towering structures in the pipeline.

Martin Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust, said the city’s renewed focus on big buildings was “a sign that things are picking up”.

And referring to the mothballed Lumiere and Kissing Towers schemes of almost a decade ago, he added: “This time round we will definitely see one or two of these buildings happen, as long as the economy doesn’t take a nosedive.”

He said Leeds already had an impressive skyline but there is “definitely” scope to enhance it.

“Our view is that as long as the buildings are high quality, and wind issues like those at Bridgewater Place are considered, height is not a concern. We are happy with the principle.”

Tomorrow’s City Plans Panel at Leeds Civic Hall will hear updated proposals for the new £350m Temple Quarter in Globe Road.

The blueprint includes two skyscrapers of 40 and 25 storeys,

Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s meeting, Jon Kenny, development director at developer CEG, said: “This proposed £350million investment into the South Bank regeneration area will provide much-needed new homes, leisure, office space and vibrant public realm.

“We will deliver inspiring architecture and landmark buildings at this important gateway site as part of a carefully considered masterplan.”

Sarah Champion MP

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