City Centre buildings could be converted into 475 student flats

Early plans to renovate two of Leeds city centre’s most recognisable buildings are set to go before councillors later this week.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 6:00 am

The Leonardo Building and Thorseby House, just off Millennium Square, are subject to a pre-application to regenerate and extend the properties to include extra office space as well as student accommodation.

Both buildings were most recently used as offices by Leeds City Council.

According to a document from Leeds City Council planning officers, the proposals would include 475 bed spaces, split between new and existing buildings, as well as shared communal spaces.

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An artist's impression of the Leonardo Building.

It added that the site was a prime city centre location, and was well connected for those who would be living and working there, adding: “The site is within walking distance of a number of nearby bus stops, the bus station and interchanges and the train station.

“(It) is also close to a number of key cycling routes through the city centre, as well as being within walking distance of a number of existing City Centre multi storey car parks.

“Secure cycle parking is to be provided as part of the proposals and full details would come forward as part of any subsequent planning application.”

The developers plan to add a two storey roof extension to the Thoresby and Leonardo Buildings – both of which are listed – and to “strip back and re-clad” the newer part of the Leonardo Building built in the late 1990s.

This would mean removing parts of the roofs on both buildings, but the glass roof to the Thoresby atrium would be kept.

Leeds City Council planning officers added: “Whilst it is acknowledged that there is harm in the loss of the historic roof this is considered to be less than substantial. It is also considered that the harm is outweighed by the benefits of providing high quality student accommodation and bringing the currently empty historic buildings back in to use. In addition, the new roof extension would be a high quality.”

The proposals also include extra communal space in the Thoresby Building lightwell, as well as a new entrance.

The site would be the latest in a number of student accommodation schemes in Leeds City Centre.

A document approved by Leeds City Council’s executive board earlier this month said the council had planned to complete the sale of the Leonardo and Thorseby buildings at some point over the next year.

The Leonardo Building dates back to 1900, when it was opened as a printworks. It was extended in the late 1990s and was used by Leeds City Council’s housing department.

Ide Real Estate announced back in December 2018 it wanted to create flexible office, hotel and living space. The plans were approved in April 2019, but no work has yet been done.

A Leeds City Council document from January 2020 warned that the sale of the Leonardo building in Leeds city centre was “not proceeding as anticipated”, and hoped a sale would be completed by the spring of that year.

Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel will discuss the document on Thursday, February 25, although no decision will be made. More detailed plans are expected to be brought before the committee later this year.