Leeds council in 'advanced' talks with big hotel chain over £14m scheme planned near Kirkgate Market

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A national hotel chain is in “advanced” talks to take over a prospective £14m development next to Kirkgate Market in Leeds.

The city council is close to striking a deal with an unnamed operator to run the hotel if it gets planning permission in the coming months, a public meeting was told on Thursday. Provisional plans to build a six-storey hotel, gym and new commercial units along George Street were welcomed by councillors, with one describing them as “a dream come true” for Leeds – if the scheme goes ahead.

It comes two years after planning consent lapsed on a similar scheme for the publicly-owned site, with the coronavirus pandemic blamed for halting progress. Now, however, council representatives insist they are confident that the new proposals will be realised. The buildings and units covered by the site are all empty, with former shops and traders having been relocated in 2018 and 2019.

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Planning consultant Tim Waring, who is advising the local authority on the plans, told the meeting: “This is a site that’s in long-standing need of regeneration. The regeneration benefits of developing here are self evident. The application is promoted on behalf of an operator. I can’t name them today, but the city council are in very advanced discussions and will hopefully be concluding the deal on the lease in the next month.”

An artist's impression of how the proposed hotel near Kirkgate Market may look. Picture: Leeds City CouncilAn artist's impression of how the proposed hotel near Kirkgate Market may look. Picture: Leeds City Council
An artist's impression of how the proposed hotel near Kirkgate Market may look. Picture: Leeds City Council

Pressed later on whether or not the identity of the firm was “good news” by one councillor, Mr Waring replied: “It’s a national operator.”

Asked how confident he was that the scheme would go ahead if planning permission is given, Mr Waring said: “As confident as I can be. The council’s in advanced discussions with the operator. With an agreement for the lease in place, which hopefully will happen next month, the consequence of that will mean the development can take place.”

Meanwhile, the council has promised to consult with traders in the Kirkgate Market over the scheme ahead of a formal planning application being submitted next month. Conservative councillor Barry Anderson said the plans would take the area around the market “up a notch”, but urged the local authority to “take the traders with you”.

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Another elected member, Lib Dem Colin Campbell, said the scheme was an “opportunity to make that route down to the bus station a more pleasant experience.”

Council officer Jane Walne, whose portfolio covers the market, said: “The more we can get the message out that this is beneficial for all the facilities there, including the Corn Exchange, [the better]. You’ve got Leeds City College and West Yorkshire Playhouse on the doorstep too. It’s starting to become a really vibrant area of the city centre having been neglected for quite a long time.”

Labour councillor Asghar Khan gave the scheme an early thumbs-up too, saying: “I think it will be a dream come true once this has been developed and it will bring life back into that area.”

Although nearly £14m was committed to the previous plans for an aparthotel on George Street, it was confirmed last week that that cash remains available to spend on the new proposals.