'Next chapter' for Leeds Corn Exchange is celebrated as new £1.2m public space officially opens

The official opening of a new public space outside Leeds Corn Exchange marks the “next chapter” for the historic building and another milestone in a wider £25m transport scheme.

By Georgina Morris
Sunday, 15th May 2022, 4:30 pm

A free day of celebratory activities was held outside the landmark site this weekend, with a packed schedule of entertainment on offer that included arts, music and dance performances.

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The event was staged on the pedestrianised open space that has been created in front of the building over the last year by Leeds City Council and its partners.

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HelloHipHop performers Scott Papworth and Phil Tang share their skills during the celebration outside Leeds Corn Exchange. Picture: Steve Riding

Work on the new piece of public realm has been carried out in tandem with a major package of Connecting Leeds highways improvements that form part of the £173.5m Leeds Public Transport Investment Programme.

This weekend's celebration was held to mark the completion of both the £1.2m public realm scheme and the wider £25m highways improvements project.

The day was funded by the council and Corn Exchange owner Rushbond plc, with added organisational support coming from contractor John Sisk & Son Ltd.

Jonathan Maud, managing director of Rushbond, said: “It was fantastic to see so many families here this weekend enjoying the event. The launch of this new public space marks the next chapter for the Corn Exchange.

How the new public realm outside Leeds Corn Exchange looks following a £1.2m redesign. Picture: Steve Riding

“This public realm transformation will offer a new place for everyone to enjoy for years to come.”

Mr Maud was among those to give a speech on the day and was joined in doing so by council leader James Lewis, Coun Helen Hayden and Sisk contract manager Peter Dawson.

Entertainment included music from Leeds Conservatoire, Leeds Youth Opera and Foxwood Panyard, plus bhangra and breakdance performances as well as face-painting, circus activity and craft sessions.

Coun Helen Hayden, who is executive member for infrastructure and climate, said: “It was wonderful to see so many people out enjoying themselves at the event – there was a lovely atmosphere and we were delighted to receive plenty of positive feedback.

John Sisk & Son Ltd contract manager Peter Dawson, Coun Helen Hayden, Coun James Lewis and Jonathan Maud, managing director of Corn Exchange owner Rushbond plc. Picture: Steve Riding

“We are really proud of the improvements that have been made around the Corn Exchange and this weekend’s celebrations were a great way of showcasing them to the public.”

Nearly 1,750 square metres of public realm has been created there by upgrading two existing pedestrian areas and removing the stretch of Call Lane that runs between New Market Street and Crown Street.

Funding for this work was supplied by the council, Rushbond and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, with the latter’s share coming through the Government’s Getting Building Fund.

South Asian Arts performers Soumyaa Patil and Jashmitha Dharmavarapu. Picture: Steve Riding

The highways improvements, meanwhile, have been led by the council’s Connecting Leeds team and have focused on prioritising buses, pedestrians and cyclists at the same time as aiming to reduce congestion in the city centre.

Wider pavements, safer cycleways, enhanced bus priority measures and new facilities for bus users now all form part of the streetscape in an area known as the Corn Exchange Gateway, which includes roads such as Call Lane, Bridge End, Lower Briggate, New Market Street, Kirkgate and Duncan Street as well as sections of Boar Lane and Vicar Lane.

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “Improving cycling and walking forms a key part of my pledge to tackle the climate emergency.

“I'm delighted that the Combined Authority is able to play its part, not only in these schemes but others around our town and city centres, to create more green spaces and space for active travel."

The Corn Exchange projects – together with public realm initiatives in places such as Meadow Lane, Cookridge Street and Greek Street – are part of the council's continuing work to create a greener, better connected and more inclusive city centre.

Visitors enjoy the celebrations and a change to relax in the new public space outside The Corn Exchange. Picture: Steve Riding