Councillors approve plans for 678 flats in Regent Street on former British Gas site in Leeds
Plans to build hundreds of new flats on a site near Regent Street, described as “excellent”, “attractive” and “exciting”, were approved by Leeds City Council planning chiefs this week.
The plans, put forward by developers Ultra Assets Holdings Ltd, include the construction of five buildings, ranging between 13 and 31 storeys, and consisting of 678 apartments for the site off Bridge Street, Gower Street and New York Road.
Members of the council’s City Plans Panel were enthused by the plans for the buildings themselves, but voiced concerns at council officers’ recommendations to opt for a financial contribution from the developers instead of building on-site affordable housing.
The site was historically occupied by British Gas, but was vacant for a long time. Its neighbouring 10-storey tower has already been converted into a Hilton Hotel in 2019.
According to a report by Leeds City Council officers, the plans include 408 one-bed, 238 two-bed, and 32 three-bed flats, as well as around 1,600 square metres of commercial and retail space on the ground floor. A 288-space car park would be built for residents, as well as a new public walkway between Bridge Street and Regent Street.
Speaking at the meeting Coun Graham Latty (Con): “I like this development very much indeed. When we got permission for the hotel, we thought it wouldn’t go any further, but it has done and I am delighted.
“It’s bringing life to a corner of Leeds that needs it.”
Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) added: “This is an excellent application. The attention to detail is very good. The attention to design and materialogy is great.”
Coun Paul Wadsworth (Con) said: “The area is currently a car park, so the public realm improvements will make it much more attractive.”
Council policy states new developments built in this part of Leeds should contain at least seven per cent affordable homes – meaning 47 of the flats in this development should cost at least 20 per cent below equivalent market rents in the local area.
In lieu of this, the developers have offered a “commuted sum” of £3,101,783, for the council to spend on affordable housing elsewhere. A report by Leeds City Council officers has suggested plans panel members accept this sum.
Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab) said: “I am unhappy with the situation. We are building more and more build to rent (properties). We need to find a way for develpp[ers to put affordables on site.
“It spoils what is a very well designed well thought about and exciting development.”
Senior council planning officer Daljit Singh insisted some developments were providing developments on site, and said that there was a “mix”.
He said: “On the Globe Road scheme, they were providing the unit on site. We are getting a mixed picture, which hopefully allays fears that we will get a social ghetto.
“I completely get the point, but I think the picture is mixed – it’s not just developers choosing one option all the time. They have different attitudes about how they are going to deliver this and what they are going to do.”
Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem): “I would echo what Caroline said – I think we are all saying we have some disquiet about how this is going.
“It is policy, but it seems to me that this panel should be saying we would like this policy reviewing as it is not in the best interests of the people of Leeds.
“It’s an interesting-looking development. Generally, I am okay with this one.”
Coun Dan Cohen (Con): “If we as elected members feel this policy is wrong, we have the mechanisms to change it.
“I understand why investors want to maintain control and have a commuted sum. I also agree with my colleagues that this is a really good application.
“This will bring life to part of the city that desperately needs it. I am not a mad fan of the colour, but on a cold dark February day, even pink can look dull.”
Councillors agreed to approve the plans, subject to the commuted sum, as well as a residential travel fund contribution of £169,669, and a fee of £259,000 to improve pedestrian facilities in nearby Mabgate.