The Core Leeds demolition plans spark complaints of too much student accommodation in city

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Plans to demolish a Leeds shopping centre to make way for a new development have sparked a debate about the volume of student accommodation in the city.

Councillors are due to give their initial thoughts next week on outline proposals to demolish The Core shopping centre and replace it with three buildings featuring a mix of shops and student flats. After getting feedback from members of the City Plans Panel, the applicants plan to carry out “comprehensive consultation and engagement exercise” ahead of submitting full plans later this year.

Built in the late 1980s, the shopping centre counts retailers, food outlets, a gym and a yoga studio among its current tenants. However, a report prepared by council planning officers notes that football has been impacted by changes in how people shop as well as the opening of the Trinity Leeds and Victoria Gate shopping centres. It adds that a third of units in The Core are empty and other businesses have told the owners that they plan to leave when their leases expire.

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Under the proposals drawn up by architecture firm Costorphine & Wright, the shopping centre would be totally demolished to make way for the three new buildings. Reaching maximum heights of seven, eight and nine storeys respectively, they would have shops in the ground floors and a total of 809 student bed spaces above. Two new streets would also link up Lands Lane with King Charles Street.

The Core shopping centre has been a fixture on The Headrow since the 1980s. Picture: GoogleThe Core shopping centre has been a fixture on The Headrow since the 1980s. Picture: Google
The Core shopping centre has been a fixture on The Headrow since the 1980s. Picture: Google

A number schemes featuring student accommodation have been given the green light in the city centre in recent years, including on the sites of the former Blue Coyote nightclub and the old Yorkshire Evening Post building. Students flats were also approved for both the old House of Fraser and Debenhams sites, although the latter is now destined to become a flagship store for Flannels instead.

The new proposals for The Core have prompted debate among Yorkshire Evening Post readers, with many complaining that that the city centre is being taken over by student flats.

Anne Arundale said: “Good grief. More student accommodation is not something we need, it’s shops that the city centre needs.”

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Jackie Powell said: “No town centre soon, just studentville!”

Lorraine Letley said: “More student accommodation that we don't need. How many flats do we need in Leeds?”

Jamie Kingdom said: “We don't need anymore student accommodation, they already have Leeds Dock and all of Headingley, they don't need the middle of town as well.”

But others said they could see the value in having more students living in the city centre, especially when people’s shopping habits have changed.

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Matthew Davis said: “Building like this with student accommodation allows shops to remain at street level. It also means students spend money. Blame the online shoppers, times have changed but all I can see is Leeds moving with the times and trying it’s best to adapt. Also putting students in what would normally be empty space above retail means houses get freed up in Headingley for families.”

Greg Fraser said: “What’s people’s issue with student accommodation? The centre is a failure. And can’t work in it’s current guise. Why not utilise space for student flats etc? There’s clearly a huge demand for it.”

Councillors will meet at Civic Hall from 1.30pm on Thursday May 13 to discuss the proposals.