‘Visually appealing’ or ‘overbearing and dominant’? Final decision expected on 32-storey tower on Santander site

Ambitious plans to replace the former Santander offices on Merrion Street with a student accommodation tower block have now been tabled.

Thursday, 30th July 2020, 2:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th July 2020, 2:35 pm

Applicants Merrion St (Leeds) Ltd want to build a 32-storey tower containing 660 student “bedspaces”.

An earlier version of the plans, seen at a pre-application meeting back in February, claimed the tower could be up to 33 storeys high and contain 545 beds.

The report added the ground floor would contain a “small retail space” and student amenity space. Bike and bin storage areas would also be provided at this level, located towards the eastern edge of the building. It is also proposed that the mezzanine level should house a “community/arts centre” with street access.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

An artist's impression of the former Santander site.

It would replace the redbrick former Santander building, which has sat on the site since the early 1980s, and is nearby to other proposed and completed student accommodation buildings including Hume House on Wade Lane and Symons House in Belgrave Street.

The application has received four letters of objection, raising concerns such as the overbearing nature of the building, as well as fears of a rise in antisocial behaviour and crime.

A report, set to go before members of the council’s city plans panel, claimed Leeds Civic Trust also complained that the tower would be “unacceptably dominant, overbearing and intrusive”.

Letters sent in support of the proposals, however, claimed the architecture would “enhance the streetscape”, and that the glass tower was “visually appealing”.

Council officers were scathing about the existing building in the report, claiming: “The proposed development would replace a 1970’s building which contributes little to the setting of the adjacent conservation area. Consequently, its removal would not have a harmful impact on its heritage setting and would not be resisted.

“The demolition of the existing building, and development of new student accommodation with ancillary facilities, a community facility and a small retail unit is acceptable in principle. By virtue of the combination of the facilities within the student bedrooms and the additional facilities provided within and around the building the living conditions provided for the occupiers would be acceptable.”

It recommended planning chiefs accept the plans in principle, and leave details to planning officers, subject to a contribution of £400,000 from developers to nearby highways improvements and public access.