Go-ahead for new hotel near Leeds Arena - complete with Marco Pierre White restaurant

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PLANS for a brand new 134 room hotel on the site of a former hotel in Leeds’s burgeoning Arena Quarter have been given the go-ahead.

The proposals for the former Merrion Hotel building - which was part of the wider Merrion Centre - also include a new restaurant run by Leeds-born celebrity chef Marco Pierre White.

The YEP revealed back in June that the star was bringing a franchise of his New York Italian restaurant to the city. The restaurant will form part of the ground floor of the new hotel.

As part of the revamp, nearby shop frontages will also be spruced up.

Councillors on the council’s City Plans Panel yesterday approved the proposals, subject to the signing of agreements. The panel welcomed another shot in the arm for the Arena Quarter - and bid good riddance to the previous unpopular building.

Coun Stuart McKenna said: “I welcome it. That horrible red building needs to go.”

However there was a lack of enthusiasm for the design, especially the “boxlike” entrance, with several councillors urging the developers to come up with something bolder to reflect the key location.

Coun Colin Campbell said: “It’s really, really bland. What’s there at the moment is rubbish. But do we want something that makes a statement, or something that’s just not very offensive?”

However Coun Neil Walshaw said the project was “an interesting and welcome bit of regeneration in an area of particular need”. “I don’t think it needs to be an iconic location, it needs to pass muster. And I think it passes muster,” he said,

Meanwhile panel chair James McKenna suggested that a new piece of public art reflecting the rich and diverse history of this part of the city centre - which was home to early Leeds Jewish and Irish communities - “would be nice”.