£1billion ‘World Trade Center’ plan could transform Leeds South Bank

An artist's impression of the Leeds skyline incorporating One Leeds. Picture: One Leeds PLC
An artist's impression of the Leeds skyline incorporating One Leeds. Picture: One Leeds PLC
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The former engine room of Leeds’ industrial might has been earmarked as prime for urban redevelopment. Jonathan Brown examines a new scheme that could revive the South Bank.

A £1billion masterplan to help transform Leeds’ South Bank over the next 100 years has been drawn up by leading architects and developers in the city.

The One Leeds proposal includes building a state-of-the-art World Trade Center exhibition and conference centre, up to 1,000 apartments, 1million sq ft of office space, 3,000 car parking spaces plus hotels, cafes, restaurants and shops.

Centred around The Tetley contemporary art gallery on the 22acre area once occupied by the Tetley Brewery, the scheme could realise Leeds City Council’s ambitions for a city centre park and “urban eco-settlement” set out in the South Bank Planning Statement it adopted in 2011.

Developer One Leeds PLC has held talks over its South Bank plan with high-level council executives as far back as April 2013 and claims to have had “meaningful negotiations” with a major landowner in the area.

The company has described the scheme as “one of the most significant urban developments the city will have ever witnessed in its 1,300-year history”.

Adam Sims, managing director of One Leeds PLC, told the YEP: “This is a major world-class regeneration project, so there’s an awful lot to do before work can start, probably in 2017.

“But what excites me is the enormous enthusiasm from local stakeholders at all levels, and the wisdom and vision of organisations such as Leeds Civic Trust is invaluable.

“I’m passionate about seeing the former Tetley site transformed into one of the finest examples of urban regeneration in western Europe.”

Mr Sims, who claims to have invested £2m in cash in getting the project ready for planning, said One Leeds could accommodate up to 10,000 workers and residents when completed.

Money from investment both locally and overseas would be sought to make the development a reality – constructing and operating the estate is estimated to cost around £800m.

“I am strongly committed to ‘conscious capitalism’ – the notion of generating inclusive economic benefit through the action of doing business,” he added.

One Leeds PLC hopes to connect the development with the £250m Leeds Trolleybus scheme (New Generation Transport), which will have a station adjacent on its link from Stourton in the south of the city to Holt Park in the north.

Drawings show that it comprises of around 30 building plots of differing sizes within a 22acre space surrounded by Crown Point to the east, Meadow Lane to the west and Brewery Wharf and Hunslet to the north and south.

Leeds Civic Trust has given feedback on early One Leeds proposals. Director of the trust Dr Kevin Grady said: “We are pleased there is some sense that there is something that potentially might happen on the land. In effect it’s such a crucially important site that it has to be got right.”

He said that the trust “admires the ambition” of the plan and particularly welcomed the idea of conferencing and exhibition facilities, though it has suggested further meetings with interested parties could help refine ideas.

Stating that the trust had initial concerns over how One Leeds “treated the Tetley site as an island”, Dr Grady added: “They would benefit from considerable discussion with the city council and other stakeholders.”

Leeds City Council has confirmed the group has met with the authority’s director of development. A spokeswoman said: “The council welcomes informal discussions with all developers and is aware of these aspirations.”

The One Leeds plan comes months after it was announced that Leeds City Council had appointed developer Arup and Gehl Architects to deliver a plan to redevelop the South Bank. In particular their plans, due to be presented by the end of this year, aim to make the most of the proposed HS2 rail line and transport interchanges with the trolleybus and buses, while covering pedestrian and cycle access.

The Tetley Brewery site lies at the very heart of the Leeds South Bank, which was cleared of the majority of its industrial buildings in 2012 before a 900-space temporary car park and small green space were laid out by landowners Carlsberg alongside the new Tetley art gallery.

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