Councillors rule in favour of former technology college redevelopment, but criticise environmental and ‘Pink Floyd’ aspects
Members of a plans committee in Leeds have, in principle, approved a new block of student flats, but warned developers that they would be grilled on their green credentials in future.
Plans to replace the former Leeds College of Technology campus in Woodhouse Lane with a block of student accommodation won support of members of Leeds City Council’s city plans panel, who agreed to delegate the final details to council officers.
Blueprints for the site include demolishing the former college building, replacing it with a 20-storey tower with 465 “bed spaces”, as well as amenity spaces, areas for cycle storage, and two commercial units.
But members demanded more greenery be included in the plans in order to help negate carbon emissions in the city.
Councillors also criticised the idea for a mural for ex-Pink Floyd front man Syd Barrett – who penned the group’s breakthrough hit “See Emily Play” at the old technology college site – claiming the wall could instead be used to cultivate plant-life, commonly known as a “green wall”.
A report from Leeds City Council officers into the plans also stated: “The applicant has also reviewed the potential for providing a green wall. However, the applicant considers that the associated long term management and maintenance implications being passed on to a future student operator would be prohibitive.”
Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) said: “This application comes across as good in some areas and uneven in others.
“The building’s design is good, the materials are good. There are concerns about demographics in the city centre, but we can’t solve that in this application.”
In response to the “prohibitive” comment, he told developers: “Don’t come to this panel and do that again.
“It’s unacceptable and it mars what is a great application in many respects.
“If you are going to make such comments in future, prove it, and show costs.”
A representative of the applicants insisted this wasn’t meant as an issue of cost, rather the amount of maintenance required to maintain a healthy green wall, adding: “We will happily take this on board to explore further. We are absolutely happy to do that.”
Coun Dan Cohen (Con) added: “It concerns me when we try and dress up something in something else’s clothes.
“The maintenance is time and effort, but it is ultimately pounds, shilling and pence. It is going to cost somebody money. It is not an esoteric concept, it is a cost concept.
“In many respects it is a fine building. But I do hope that the green wall will remain as something for officers to look for robust financial information when we are making determinations as to what should be there.
“It is going to come down to the resource implication for making it sustainable. Officers should look at this and make a balanced judgement.”
Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab) added: “The building is attractive and works very well. There is a lot fo potential in this development and I am very supportive of it.
“There are lessons we need to learn as a panel. If maintaining green walls is so difficult, we need to know about this.
“We have a developer saying it is prohibitive to maintain and we need to know more. I have seen green walls that hare half dead and they look appalling.”
The meeting also heard about the prospect of a mural featuring Syd Barrett and other members of Pink Floyd. Coun Al Garthwaite (Lab) said she would like to see the mural remain, but suggested it feature somebody else.
“Could we have more diversity, perhaps [leading astrophysicist] Maggie Aderin-Pocock, instead of three white men from the past?” she added.
“The college of technology was a science and technical place as well – we should keep that in mind.”
Councillors were generally supporting of the plans for the building, however, with many praising the design.
Coun Graham Latty (Con) said: “It’s a lovely building. I like it and it looks as though it will compliment what is there already, and it might give a nice feel to this part of Leeds.”
Recommendations to delegate the plans to officers were approved.