Leeds House of Fraser set to be demolished as plans for student flats on Briggate approved

Plans to demolish Leeds’ House of Fraser store and replace it with student flats have been backed by local councillors.

The retailer is set to move out of the Briggate premises, which was once the site of the city’s first ever Woolworths store.

Subject to several conditions, developers will now build a 10-storey block for 369 university students in its place, though space for shops on the ground and basement floors will be included.

There had been five objections against the scheme, with concerns about the new building’s height cited.

An artist's impression of the development on Briggate

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But at a planning meeting on Thursday, city councillors said they’d be pleased to see the back of the “ugly” House of Fraser building, which was put up in the late 1950s.

Liberal Democrat councillor Colin Campbell said: “I think (the proposal) is actually quite a nice design. It works and it will improve Briggate.

“This seems to me a sympathetic development down there. I do appreciate that it’s taller than other buildings round there and taller than the ones next door.

“But I think we have to be realistic that there needs to be certain mass within the development.”

Labour member Asghar Khan said: “Many people will not be saddened to miss that building. This new proposal is a remarkable building and it will improve the area as well.

“I welcome this new design. I think it will blend in really nicely.”

Councillors did express concerns about how Central Road, which runs to the rear of the property, will function.

The street is used by both pedestrians and traffic, with developers Dukelease promising to retain the disabled parking that exists in the area as part of the proposals.

The new building’s student reception will also be accessed from Central Road.

Councillor Campbell said the area was “not very pleasant” and hoped it would be improved.

He said: “I’d like to see it be more pedestrian-friendly.

“There will be a lot of students in here. On a hot day like today, it’s a fair distance for them to walk to any green space and so therefore they will spill out onto the surrounding road network.”

The developers Manner said the issue was subject to “ongoing discussion” as the road is owned and maintained by the council.

However, they promised that benches, improved paving and “breakout spaces” on Central Road would all feature as part of the scheme.

Manner's managing director Richard James said: "We’re delighted to have received approval at City Plans Panel today.

"This significant investment will provide safe, modern and high quality accommodation for students in Leeds, allowing them to enjoy all this fantastic city has to offer, right on their doorstep.

"And alongside the refreshed retail offer and improvements to the public realm on Central Road, we will ensure an active and vibrant future for this landmark site in the city centre.”

The property site was once occupied by Leeds’ Grand Central Hotel, until that was demolished to make way for a purpose-built store for Woolworths in the 1920s.

That building itself was knocked down to make way for a new structure around 30 years later, with Woolworths staying there until the 1980s.