HE’S never one to shy away from starting a debate with an outspoken opinion or two.
And now Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson has done it again, sparking something of a frenzy on Twitter when he made a surprising comment on Leeds’s skyline.
Clarkson was on a train journey north on Monday evening when he tweeted: “What’s happened to Leeds? It looks like New York.”
The Doncaster-born TV presenter’s apparently tongue-in-cheek post was retweeted more than 1,200 times by other users of the social media site.
Today, Clarkson’s remark was still the talk of the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Twitter and Facebook pages as readers discussed the respective merits of the county’s unofficial capital and the Big Apple.
Some went as far as to light-heartedly assert that Leeds – whose skyline has been transformed in recent years by the construction of 32-storey Bridgewater Place and other high-rise buildings – now puts the US city in the shade.
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Experts in the field also had their say – and although they weren’t ready to write off New York just yet, they did acknowledge that the architectural changes Leeds has undergone in the last two decades have helped turn it into a true regional heavyweight.
Leeds City Council’s leader, Coun Keith Wakefield, said: “Despite the tough economic challenges that we continue to face, Leeds is continuing to buck the national trend and move forward with a real vision and strength of purpose.
“Over the past few years we have seen major projects such as the First Direct Arena and Trinity Leeds open their doors, with other exciting developments such as Victoria Gate and plans for a major refurbishment of Leeds Kirkgate Market also on the horizon.”
Dr Kevin Grady, director of the Leeds Civic Trust heritage watchdog, told the YEP: “Overall, the impact of the tall buildings on Leeds has been to give it a scale which creates some of the big city feel that it needs.
“Because of the tall buildings, the distance view of the city coming in from the south along the motorway is impressive and makes you feel that you are entering a city of consequence.
“Jeremy Clarkson no doubt was impressed with the scale of the buildings along the waterfront and in the vicinity of the stations and railway line.”
Dr Grady said that, as recently as the early 1990s, the council was trying to reduce the number of high-rise buildings in the city centre.
That policy, he said, was “thrown out of the window” after the start of the city’s long building boom in the mid-1990s.
Initial developments of 10 to 15 storeys began to spring up, many of them along the waterfront.
Bridgewater Place claimed the title of Yorkshire’s tallest building when work on it was completed in 2007.
The Leeds skyline would today appear even more dramatic had it not been for the recession, with schemes such as Wellington Street’s Lumiere skyscrapers and Sovereign Street’s ‘kissing towers’ being scrapped as a result of the economic downturn.