Leeds business bosses are calling for a revamp of the city centre to create a ‘Waterway District’ to make its river and canal fronts more accessible to residents and visitors.
The West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce says in a report entitled Leeds: A Waterfront City? that, while the city is home to excellent waterways in the shape of the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, they are currently too much of a ‘hidden asset’ and in large part inaccessible to the public.
In particularly it cites areas around the station as being too dimly lit, home to too many poorly maintained footpaths and prone to anti-social behaviour.
And with the city’s railway station now boasting a south entrance and an increasing push to develop the South Bank area to extend the city centre, the chamber said that the time was now to invest in improving their appeal.
In particular the areas it expresses concerns about are:
- The stretch between Whitehall Road and Leeds Station, which is states needs improved lighting and footpaths, as well as the clearing of vegetation.
- The route between Leeds Station and the Dark Arches which, despite being a gateway into the city centre, is too overgrown and is “in dire need of cleaning and exudes a presence of gloom”.
- The towpath and pathway between Leeds Station and Globe Road, a well-used stretch by cyclists and pedestrians but poorly lit and prone to anti-social activities.
- The stretch of the north bank of the Aire which runs past Neville Street, Sovereign Street and Leeds Bridge. The river and walkway is screened off by buildings and fences in places, with poor lighting and signs of anti-social and vagrant activity. It adds that the steps down from Leeds Bridge are so poorly sign-posted that they looks like a “route to nowhere”.
One extract reads: “It is not surprising that the waterfront remains under-utilised if it is so ‘invisible’ to many.
“What proportion of the city’s university students are aware of the waterfront for example?”
To improve matters the chamber recommends a number of measures, including pop art projects along the banks, clean-up programmes for so-called “grot spots” and the establishment of a Waterfront Charter for the city which would follow a similar model to the approach taken by the city to clean up the 2015 floods, with council and business leaders taking charge of the process.
It also called for a Waterfront Stewardship programme, which would encourage additional funding streams to make improvements.
Tim Waring, director at planning consultants Quod and lead for the chamber’s Waterfront Report, said, “During the city’s industrial heyday, Leeds Waterfront played an important role in trade coming into and out of the region. “The legacy from this era is one of fantastic architecture but with limited access to the river in places. The chamber are very keen to see a new focus on the waterfront, it being a key link between the emerging developments south of the city centre and the existing commercial area.
“Future development within South Bank Leeds, Holbeck, the New West End, Quarry Hill, Leeds Innovation District along with the redevelopment of Leeds Station are all hugely positive and reflect the confidence the city is now projecting to the world. It is important we make the most of Leeds Waterfront becoming the heart of what is fast becoming a thriving business district.”