Exclusive tour of Trinity Leeds retail and leisure development

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A stunning panorama of the Leeds skyline was laid out in all its glory when the Yorkshire Evening Post took an exclusive look inside the landmark £350m retail and leisure development.

The finishing touches are now being made to the 40,000sq ft dome roof, which uses 1,903 glass panels weighing 90kg each. After scaffolding was removed, the roof sank 20mm as it set in place – a nerve-racking moment for project leader Chris Rafferty from Laing O’Rourke.

He said: “It was to be expected but it was still a nervous moment when they measured it and it had moved 20mm. The most exciting part so far has been seeing the roof finished. That’s the best thing about my job – seeing things take shape.

“You don’t often get to work on something like this and I will be proud to say that I have.

“We keep thinking people in Leeds know we’re here and they know what we’re doing, but they only really get glimpses of it.”

Hidden away down alleyways, behind boarded-up scaffolding and above the rooftops around Briggate, Commercial Street, Albion Street and Boar Lane, you can only sneak a peek at the impressive glass dome.

Not even those working on the site appreciated the sheer size until the scaffolding was removed yesterday.

Andrew Dudley, head of the development at Land Securities, said: “The finished roof is just stunning. When you walk in, you think ‘Wow. We got that pretty right.’”

Two thirds of the development have already been snapped up. Next is trebling in size to 57,000sq ft, Topshop will double to 40,000sq ft and Primark will have a massive 107,000sq ft of space.

Andrew, who has worked on the British Museum and in Cardiff, added: “Given the challenging economy, that is a testament to the strength of Leeds as a city and the strength of the scheme.

“What sets this project apart is the stunning opportunity. There had been no city-changing schemes before it and we’re able to do it without intervening with city centre life too much. We are bringing back old streets and uplifting the architecture and working around it.”

Since work started in 2010, the roof has been completed, escalators have arrived, retail units have been built and the entrances are in place.

Work is now under way on the £10m glass walkway across Albion Street to join the east and west sides, replacing the 1970s-style link bridges.

Due to open in Spring 2013, the 1m sq ft centre will also have two bespoke Conran-designed restaurants – the first UK venture outside London for international restaurant operator D&D London, putting Leeds alongside New York, Paris, Tokyo and Copenhagen. The first Everyman Cinema outside London and the South East will also be housed at Leeds Trinity, as well as fashion brands Cult, Mango and Hollister.