Student ‘twodio’ flats with two beds to a room part of plans for former Leeds Debenhams site

Detailed plans to convert the former Debenhams building in Leeds City Centre into student flats will go before planning chiefs in the city next week.

Plans submitted for the iconic Briggate landmark by Orchard Street Investment Management, and will include the redevelopment of the existing building while also adding a rooftop extension.

The development will include 124 bed spaces in 107 student flats. Ninety of these will be studio flats, while a further 17 will be duel-occupancy studios, termed “twodios” – effectively one room with two double beds.

Four communal areas are proposed, with a new “courtyard wellness garden” would be created in the centre of the former department store from the second floor up and cover 240 square metres. A smaller communal roof terrace is also proposed, while two lounges, and a study room are also proposed.

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Plans submitted for the iconic Briggate landmark by Orchard Street Investment Management, and will include the redevelopment of the existing building while also adding a rooftop extension.
Plans submitted for the iconic Briggate landmark by Orchard Street Investment Management, and will include the redevelopment of the existing building while also adding a rooftop extension.

It would also mean demolishing the current rooftop extension, which was built in the 1980s.

A report into the proposals by Leeds City Council planning officers stated: “It is considered that the proposal would result in a high quality, appropriate development. The scheme would bring active use to an important historic building and would add to the vibrancy and vitality to the area and furthering its regeneration.

“The proposals would allow important underused historic areas of the listed building to be brought back into use and whilst it is acknowledged that there will be some (but not substantial) harm by virtue of the extent of demolition and alterations, this is of a tolerable level when balanced against the public benefits of the regeneration of the building.

“Therefore the proposal is in accordance with the Development Plan and is considered to be acceptable and is recommended for planning approval and listed building consent approval subject to the conditions… and the planning obligations set out at the head of this report.”

As part of the recommendation to approve the plans, council officers suggested the scheme should commit to employing local people and the occupation of the residential units by students only.

Debenhams closed earlier this year, after the firm was a high profile casualty of the economic hardship caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The site has been vacant ever since.

An earlier form of the plans went before the plans panel back in March, with councillors expressing mixed feelings about the principle.

Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said: “I have no problem with students anywhere in the city, but this notion of literally every new building that comes seems to be for student accommodation, and for the 25 weeks a year students aren’t around, it can have a negative impact.

“But this building isn’t going to be in use and it is not going to be a department store.”

Coun Caroline Gruen said: “I think it is a really positive, creative, helpful addition to the city centre. The preservation of the exterior is an excellent move.”

Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel will meet to discuss the plans on Thursday, July 8.