Green light for £18m renovation of former Leeds city centre school building amid design concerns

£18m plans to renovate a former school building in Leeds city centre have been approved by Leeds City Council planning chiefs.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 11:45 am

The site, on 2 Great George Street, is one of the city’s grandest Victorian buildings, dating back to the 1890s, and developers Priestley want to bring it back into use as dozens of flats and offices.

Around 83 flats could be included in the proposals: 34 one-bed, 43 two-bed, and six three-bed, while the ground floor would also contain office space, and a residents’ gym would be included in the basement.

Historical societies have claimed the plan, which includes a large glass roof terrace, strays too far away from the grade II listed building’s original design.

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An artist's impression of the plans to renovate the former school building on Great George Street

It follows an earlier version of plans for the building, which had been approved at a previous meeting of the panel.

Speaking to the council’s City Plans Panel, Coun David Blackburn (Green) said: “Looking at this, it’s a far better scheme than the one that was passed.

“It’s either not go with this and stop with the other, or take it on trust. One of the impressions of this looks like a metal box stuck on top of a building and the other one looks quite nice. I’m hoping it will look quite nice, rather than a metal box.

“I think we have got to go with this.”

Coun Dan Cohen (Con) said: “I think this is actually a fairly decent proposal. The original one wasn’t one of the finest pieces of architecture to have graced the city. It is going to bring an unused building back into use.

“The sooner we get this going, the better.

“The previous scheme is ghastly,” added Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab). “And if we don’t approve this scheme, we would be reverting back to the ghastly scheme.

“We would all like original buildings to stay exactly as they are from the outside, but the only way old and listed buildings can be preserved is to find another use for them.

“The only way this can be viable is to have extensions so there is sufficient residential accommodation to pay for restoration of the building.”

"The work is expected to cost the developer around £18.25m and is likely to take 18 months to complete from start to finish. The district valuer had said in a report that only 3.6 per cent of the units (three in total) should be affordable housing.

Coun Kayleigh Brooks said: “I am concerned about the affordables, but there is nothing we can do about that.

“I support the uses as residential, but I have concerns about the office use – I am not sure it’s going to be viable in the long term, but then it’s not my building.

“I’ll grudgingly support this.”

Members of the committee voted to approve approve the plans in principle, on condition that the developers commit to employing local people, providing three affordable houses on site and contributing to local travel plans.

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