Blueprint unveiled to transform sprawling industrial heartland

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THE ENGINE room of a Yorkshire city’s growth during the Industrial Revolution could be the site of the biggest transformation which its centre has witnessed in 150 years, according to council chiefs.

The peaks and troughs of a double-dip recession, the downfall of heavy industry giants and the upsurge in digital technology have led Leeds’ so-called South Bank to become a patchwork of brownfield land, apartment blocks and creative businesses.

Following multi-million pound investment in the likes of the recently opened Trinity Leeds shopping centre and the First Direct Arena, Leeds City Council is hopeful the area that once housed Tetley Brewery will be next to be transformed.

The Yorkshire Post understands ambitious ideas being discussed include potentially moving Leeds City Bus Station to create a transport interchange and shifting the location of the proposed Leeds HS2 station.

Meanwhile, several transport and construction schemes in the Leeds South Bank area below the River Aire, which stretches from Holbeck Urban Village in the west to Leeds Dock in the east, are already at an advanced stage.

And as the council steps up its bid for private investment in the South Bank through a newly-developed business presentation, Coun Richard Lewis, the executive member for city development, has revealed the local authority’s own hopes for the area.

He said: “This is the biggest change to the city centre in 150 years and we want people to express their views about what’s happening and have ownership over the process. We knew that whatever we came up with in 2010 would have already changed a huge amount because opportunities arise.”

The council has earmarked 74 acres of potential development land in the South Bank, has suggested building two bridges – one from Sovereign Street to Brewery Wharf and another south of Leeds Dock – while plans for an 8.5-acre city park are mooted.

One of the more recent proposals to arise since the South Bank Planning Statement was adopted in 2011, is the plan to build the New Lane HS2 rail station near Bridgewater Place which, combined with the £250m New Generation Transport trolleybus scheme, is hoped to bring about a public transport revolution.

But while reports suggest station construction could begin within six years, Coun Lewis hinted its location is not set in stone. He said: “Regardless of where the HS2 station is, it’s going to have a great impact on that area and some of the shops in the area have shot up in price in anticipation.”

Within the South Bank, Holbeck Urban Village is emerging as a creative business hub and is earmarked for more residential developments, including a plan for 744 new flats on Sweet Street and Manor Road, while South Bank Central is expected to house Leeds College of Building, a £25m free school and Leeds City College by 2016. These, added to by a rejuvenated Leeds Dock and 21st Century public transport, are hoped to fuel more housing for families.

Stating that the council has given ambitious plans such as the One Leeds 100-year plan to create a World Trade Center, housing and offices in South Bank Central a lukewarm reception thus far, Coun Lewis is hopeful a collaborative, flexible approach will help shape the area’s future. “It’s about future-proofing. It’s better to be able to set principles and be flexible,” Coun Lewis added.