Planning chiefs’ mixed response to Yorkshire Bank building student flats plans

Early plans to build more than 1,200 student flats and a large events space on the site of Yorkshire Bank headquarters were met with a mixed response by Leeds City Council planning chiefs.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 4:45 am
Yorkshire Bank's headquarters in Leeds City Centre.

According to a pre-application, the development opposite Leeds Arena would feature three buildings, two of which would be on the Yorkshire Bank site. One of these would be the large events space, while the other would include student flats, and be made up of 543 student bed spaces.

On a piece of grassland opposite Leeds Arena off Clay Pit Lane, a large glass tower would including student accommodation, along with amenity space for residents. The tower would be situated in front of the arena and is expected to hold around 720 student bed spaces.

The events space would include a main exhibition hall, a fixed event space, storage space and areas for retail and refreshments.

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Members of Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel met this week to discuss the plans, with many expressing concerns around the glass tower and its incongruity opposite the relatively low-rise Leeds Arena.

Commenting on the plans, Coun Graham Latty (Con) said: “I must congratulate you on proposing to knock down Yorkshire Bank. I know I’m in a minority, but I think it’s an ugly building in Leeds.

“When we agreed to the arena application, it was most certainly raised during discussions that the two bunds were envisaged as having somewhere to put ancillary developments – something to enhance the experience of people attending the arena.

“It came as quite a big surprise that you’re wanting to do what you’re wanting to do. What you are proposing is a quite beautiful building – it’s just not where I would have wanted to see it.

“I know it’s a preferred site. I really do think that it is going to spoil something which I am proud of.”

Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab) added: “I think the glass building to the north of the site is a very beautiful building, but that is not the right place for it. I think it does distract from the arena, and it has no relationship to the arena.

“I can’t vote for it as it is now.”

The glass-fronted tower is expected to rise to 38 storeys, which would make it one of the tallest buildings in the city.

“That building in another site would be beautiful, but not where it is proposed,” said Coun David Blackburn (Green). “On the Yorkshire Bank, I have not got a lot of problems with the proposals.

“As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t want the large crystal building sat in front of the arena – I don’t think it belongs there.”

Some councillors welcomed the building, however, adding that the view of the arena would likely be obscured no matter what was built.

Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said: “I think it’s a stunning building. It reminds me a little bit of the flat iron building in New York. I think it is going to be a landmark.

“Anything you build there is going to block [the view of the arena]. If it’s going to be built there, we need to have the highest quality of building possible. I think it is architecturally stunning and enhances the area.”

Plans had emerged in December 2020, when Leeds City Council announced a land deal – exchanging one of its own sites for half of the Yorkshire Bank building in anticipation of development in the coming years.

Yorkshire Bank is understood to hold a lease on the building until 2025, meaning no work on the events space can take place until then.

“It feels plonked,” said Coun Kayleigh Brooks (Lab). “The arena is a landmark in itself, and there is a decorative night-time presence about it. It would be a shame to block that off.”

No decision was made on the plans, as more detailed documents for the site are expected to be submitted to the council in the coming months.

Richard Beecham , Local Democracy Reporting Service