Rush to build student accommodation ‘worrying’, claims councillor

A Leeds politician has told planning chiefs that the current rush to build student accommodation in the centre of Leeds is “worrying”, and warned that the city could one day be left with towers full of empty student flats.

Saturday, 4th September 2021, 11:45 am
Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said he was concerned that “every tall building” currently planned for Leeds City Centre was a student accommodation block.

The comments from Coun Dan Cohen (Con) came during a meeting of Leeds City Council’s city plans panel, during a discussion on early plans to build further student accommodation buildings on a site close to Leeds Arena.

He added he was concerned that “every tall building” currently planned for Leeds City Centre was a student accommodation block and that could leave Leeds at a loose end in the future, if its universities did not remain as popular.

Coun Cohen told a meeting of Leeds City Council’s City Plans Panel: “I think students of this city are awesome. The contribution of students to the economy and the city are integral. But we are not just a student city.

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“It worries me that every single large scale development that comes forward in the city centre is a student development. Until students came back (after the Covid lockdowns), the impact over the past 18 months on city life was really noticeable.

“I am concerned that unless we strategically address that, we are storing up problems for the future. Demand for universities ebbs and flows.

“At the moment, Leeds is the city of choice. In 10 or 15 years, that will change, it may well be that we have all these very tall buildings with nobody in them. I am worried.”

Applications over the past couple of years include plans to convert the old Debenham’s site in Briggate into flats, as well as further large developments on the Leeds International Pool site,

The Leonardo Building, and other sites in Sheepscar and around the Merrion Centre.

This particular meeting was to discuss a pre-application, which would include more than 1,200 houses on sites opposite Leeds Arena. No decision was made on the site, as a full application is expected to be submitted by developers in the coming months.

Fellow committee member Coun Neil Walshaw (Lab) added: “There is a dash to build student housing, because there is a dash for the biggest short to medium-term (financial) returns. That is something we have to contend with.”