Leeds City Council unveils plans to make more use of open spaces

In recent years, Leeds has won a number of accolades for being a city that is going places.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 9:18 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 9:19 am
Greek Street is one of the city centre areas that will be made more user friendly.

And there is still a lot more to come: from rising through the retail rankings, having the largest ethnically diverse population and financial and legal sectors outside London, to redevelopment of the city’s train station, introduction of High Speed Rail and redevelopment of the South Bank.

However, city leaders admit there is one thing that hasn’t enjoyed so much attention – but is now a crucial part of what Leeds perceives to be one of its greatest assets. Open spaces.

The city, through Leeds Council, Leeds Business Improvement District and other agencies, is now working on a “challenge for our public realm to become the city’s greatest cultural asset”.

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Over recent months a document called the ‘Our Spaces Strategy’ has been drafted up which looks at key areas of public open space such as parks, squares, waterways, historical buildings and even the less obvious ones such as pathways and cycle routes - and how they can be improved.

The strategy says: “Our existing spaces are not without issues. The public realm and connecting routes within Leeds currently lack a distinct sense of place and quality, with a range of issues such as being in poor condition, narrow footpaths, street clutter, dead or dying trees and shrubs and decommissioned water features to name but a few.“Through Our Spaces we will be looking to address these issues and put in place a more robust maintenance programme with clearly defined revenue budgets to ensure that these spaces meet the expectations of 21st century city centre infrastructure.”

The ideas have been put out for public consultation, which is open until next month.

Along with wider footpaths, attractive cobbles, extra road crossings and landscaping, other suggested projects include: a footbridge over the river from Asda House to Sovereign Square which is set to be done this year; reduce traffic and road network to create a new City Square that is larger than Trafalgar Square in London; new public squares at Cookridge Street, New Briggate and near the arena; partial closure of Call Lane to traffic at night; Vicar Lane to become two way traffic in two lanes; public art at Quarry Hill; formation of a City Park between the South Bank development and the city centre.

The report says: “Leeds’ public realm will be inclusive, hospitable, engaging and sustainable. “Streets and spaces will be designed for people, enabling a greater range of activities and creating environments where they choose to stay for longer. Leeds’ public realm will celebrate the city’s built and natural assets and become a place where culture – from big events to every day street culture – can happen.”

Some elements are being implemented already such as public realms at Quarry Hill and Clay Pit Lane, while a space aimed at families is on the cards for Queen Square.

Prior to the Open Spaces strategy, there had been pockets around the city where open spaces were being put to good use – for example the pedestrianisation of Greek Street in 2016.

Since then the street has seen a number of new bars and restaurants open and last year Leeds City Council announced there would be a £462,000 scheme for the street to be paved partly in granite to enable businesses to make better use of the new and improved space. New lighting and greenery is also planned to revamp the current area with completion by early summer.