Shopping mall joins Leeds trolleybus opponents

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The new owner of the Arndale Centre in Headingley has come out in opposition to Leeds’s trolleybus plans.

Schroder Real Estate Investment Trust bought the landmark Otley Road shopping centre for just over £16m in January.

At the time, Schroder said it saw the centre as a key site to benefit from the proposed £250m trolleybus scheme.

Now, though, one of the project’s co-promoters, West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro, has confirmed that the company has lodged an objection to the plans.

A spokesman for Metro said the authority was “in negotiations” with Schroder but could provide no detail of the reasons for the firm’s apparent change of heart.

Schroder was unable to provide a comment on the situation.

As previously reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post, around 2,000 representations were made by residents and other parties ahead of the public inquiry that will decide the fate of Leeds’s New Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus project.

Headed up by Metro and Leeds City Council, the NGT scheme was given funding approval by the Department for Transport in 2012. However, Leeds still needs a Transport Works Act (TWA) Order for permission to build the system.

As is normal for a project the size of trolleybus, the Government will make a decision on the award of the TWA Order based on the findings of a public inquiry. The NGT inquiry is due to get under way on April 29, at the Regus office building on Wellington Place in Leeds.

If it comes through the inquiry process unscathed, the trolleybus network will link Holt Park in the north of the city with Stourton in the south.

NGT bosses say the system would create up to 4,000 new jobs while critics claim the project would offer poor value for money and damage the environment.

Leeds East MP George Mudie has branded it “unglamorous” while First, the biggest bus operator in the city, has also voiced its opposition to the plans.

Bosses at First say a state-of-the-art fleet of double decker buses would deliver the same benefits as NGT at a fraction of the cost.

The forthcoming public inquiry could last around two months and, once completed, it may still take another year for the Government to make a final decision on the TWA Order application.

* Headingley’s Arndale Centre was built in 1964 and refurbished in the mid-1990s.

Offices were also added in 2009 to accommodate the expansion of a commercial tenant at the time, White Young Green. Arndale Centres were the first American-style malls to be built in the UK.