Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Leeds City Council planning chiefs have said they are pleased with early blueprints to build an 11-building complex of almost 1,800 homes on the site of a former chemical works.
This is despite some reservations about the designs, which one councillor compared to Soviet-era Russia, due to a perceived ‘stale and uniform design’ of the buildings.
Members of the council’s City Plans Panel met this week to discuss pre-application plans from Latimer Developments to build new general and student residential buildings on the former City Reach 1 and 2 site off Kirkstall Road.
The wider site is expected to eventually be made up of 11 buildings, featuring 1,437 new homes, 362 student rooms as well as “leisure, cultural and community floorspace”.
Following a presentation from the developers Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab, Bramley & Stanningley) said:
“I really love the concept of the development. I appreciate the empathy that you have shown in the architecture of the surrounding buildings. It is a really innovative project.”
She added, however, that there was a “degree of uniformity” in the styles of the buildings, comparing them to “corporation” buildings.
A report into the plans by Leeds City Council officers also suggests 243 car parking spaces, 1,148 cycle parking spaces would also be included. The tallest buildings on the site are expected to reach about 15-17 storeys.
The scheme is also expected to include landscaped public areas, including a park and walkway along the frontage of the River Aire.
Coun Elizabeth Nash (Lab, Hunslet) told the meeting:
“I like the linear park idea alongside the river and I hope you will plant water-loving trees in the area.
“There is a uniformity about all the blocks. I can see you have tried to make them look a bit different, but it hasn’t quite come off.
“I must say it reminds me of the outskirts of St Petersburg – Leningrad as was – when [Nikita] Khrushchev built a load of high rise flats interspersed every few blocks with a shop, only the shops in Russia didn’t have anything in them.
“I do think you have quite a bit more work to do to make the blocks look individual. I have been to New York and Chicago – they have skyscrapers, but they are all individual and there isn’t that uniformity.”
Coun Kayleigh Brooks (Lab) said:
“I don’t know about Leningrad – I think it is very attractive, but that is just my opinion.
“I think it has got a lot going for it – I think the community aspect of it is very strong. The design is pretty good.
“The main thing it’s got going for it is the amazing greenspace. It is a net benefit to the city.”
She added that a nearby school recently ran a housing survey, finding that, of respondents, one in five families live in one-bedroom accommodation.
“If that is not an illustration of housing need,” she said. “I don’t know what is. If you can get it so there are more social rents coming forward, that would be appreciated.”
Coun David Blackburn (Green, Farnley & Wortley) said:
“I can’t wait for you to build it. I think it is really good.”
No final decision was made as the plans for the former Yorkshire Chemicals site are at pre-application stage, and a more detailed application is expected to be submitted in the coming months.