House of Fraser in Briggate to be demolished to make way for hundreds of student flats

Early plans to demolish House of Fraser’s flagship Leeds city centre department store and replace it with hundreds of student flats are set to go before council planning chiefs next week.

According to a pre-application report, it is understood HoF will not renew its lease on the building in Briggate, but that the new plans would allow for a retail space to remain at the front of the site.

The building was first built in 1959 to house a Woolworths, replacing the former Grand Central Hotel which previously occupied the site.

And, while its Portland stone frontage has become a symbol of Leeds city centre’s main shopping district over the decades, the new plans involve demolishing the building “in its entirety”.

Designs for the Grand Central Place designs in Briggate, Leeds. The House of Fraser store would be turned into retail and student accommodation.

It would, according to developers, be replaced with a 10-storey structure with “round-headed arches” above windows.

The basement and ground floor levels are expected to be devoted to retail, while the remaining nine floors would be taken up by 368 purpose-built student “bed spaces”.

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House of Fraser Leeds: Plans to turn Briggate department store into retail and s...

According to the report, developers would split the accommodation between 238 bedrooms across three-eight bed clusters; and another 130 self-contained studio flats. Communal facilities would be spread across the ground floor, floor one and floor eight.

The studio flats are set to range in size from 20 to 28.3 square metres, while en-suite bedrooms in the cluster flats will range from 12.1 to 17.6 square metres. According to a Leeds City

Council draft planning document, the proposed minimum size for bedrooms in student accommodation is between 11.5 and 14 square metres for cluster bedrooms, and 20-28 square metres for studios – but it adds that new rooms should “achieve the mid to upper sizes of the ranges”.

Planning officers claim the design of the existing HoF building is one of “civic modernism”, adding that its post-war “geometric boxy form” had “little regard to its historical context”.

The report added: “(It) has a weak visual relationship with the adjacent listed building and other listed late Victorian and Edwardian listed buildings nearby.

“As such, subject to a suitably designed replacement, the demolition of the existing building would not be resisted.”

Commenting on the application, the Leeds Civic Trust warned that, “while the days of the large department store are over”, student accommodation would only bring “seasonal” benefits, as many may not be living on site during the summer.

It added: “Questions remain regarding the long-term demand for (purpose built student accommodation). Given this scenario, it should be demonstrated that the development would be convertible to permanent accommodation.”

The plans follow the approval earlier this year of a similar scheme further up Briggate, which will see the former Debenhams building converted into 124 student bedrooms.

Other recently-approved student accommodation schemes in the city centre include Vita in St Alban’s Place, Symons House in Belgrave Street, Hume House in Wade Lane and 44 Merrion Street.

Speaking earlier this month, Richard Leslie, CEO at Dukelease, said: “We are excited to be bringing forward our draft plans for Grand Central Place at 140-142 Briggate, which we hope will secure an active and vibrant future for this site in the heart of Leeds.

“University life can be stressful for many students, who are often living away from home for the first time and balancing the demands of their studies with busy social and work lives. It is vital that students have a place to live where they can unwind, focus on their studies, and mostly importantly, feel safe. Our ambition is to deliver modern and comfortable student accommodation, which can be their ‘home away from home’.”

The pre-application will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel on Tuesday, December 21.

As this is a pre-application, no final decision will be made, and more detailed plans are expected to be submitted in the coming months.

Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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