Gym and fitness centre proposals unveiled for well-known Leeds building

The former library building.
The former library building.
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A prominent Leeds building could be set for a healthy new lease of life after years of disuse and decline.

Leeds-based property firm Rushbond wants to turn the former York Road library in Richmond Hill into a state-of-the-art gym and fitness centre.

The original Grade II listed building, which was once also used as a public baths, would be restored and retained alongside a modern extension.

A planning application has been submitted to Leeds City Council for the scheme, which would provide 16,000 sq ft of space across two levels.

Should the proposals get the go-ahead, the finished centre would be operated by The Gym Group.

Rushbond director Mark Finch said: “This is such a wonderful building, engrained in the hearts of the community having been the local library and swimming baths for so many years.

“We have shaped a tremendous opportunity to create a sustainable and fitting end-use for the building that can regenerate this key site and bring forward new investment and jobs into the local area.

“The building’s iconic features such as the turret and clock, and a wonderful ‘Leeds owl’ mosaic, will be restored as part of celebrating the character of this distinctive building.

“The Gym Group is one of the UK’s leading gym operators and we are delighted to be working with them and their team on this exciting venture.”

The plans have won the backing of Leeds Civic Trust, the organisation which works to protect the heritage of the city.

Trust director Martin Hamilton said: “Leeds Civic Trust has been supportive of efforts to save the building for many years.

“It is more than just a physical landmark in the area, having played such an important part in the social and cultural history of Richmond Hill.

“The sensitive blending of contemporary architecture with the historic library building has the potential to further enhance its landmark status and secure its use into the future.”

Council leader Coun Judith Blake, meanwhile, described the proposed scheme as “very interesting”.

She said: “The proposed use for the building is also in keeping with its former use as swimming baths, and if approved these facilities would add to the health and well-being offer in Leeds as part of our drive to be the healthiest city in the country.”

The building originally opened in 1903 but has been disused for many years.

A report written by Leeds Civic Trust in 2012 said: “The exterior is substantially complete and the brickwork is mostly in fair condition, but the stone elements are often badly weathered.

“The building has been unoccupied for many years and all roof slates have been removed, although plastic sheeting has been fixed to the roof timbers this is torn and missing over significant areas.

“Guttering and downpipes are broken [or] missing also exacerbating the potential for water damage.

“Windows are boarded at lower levels and sometimes broken at higher levels allowing occasional views showing collapsed ceilings.”