City college could use empty office blocks to teach students

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VACANT office blocks in Leeds could be used by Leeds City College as a campus to teach further education courses.

The college, which teaches over 45,000 students at a number of different locations, is applying for change of use planning permission to use part of an office park in the Headingley area of the city for teaching.

Council chiefs are recommending that councillors should back the proposals which would last for a temporary period of ten years and urge Leeds City’s Council’s chief planning officer to give the proposal the go-ahead, provided conditions are met.

The application will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Plans Panel West next Thursday.

A report to members says: “The need for alternative accommodation has arisen in part from problems with the existing Thomas Danby building on Roundhay Road which is an inefficient building with poor natural light and ventilation together with asbestos issues.

“The proposed use of the Headingley Office Park site as a college is scheduled to last up to 10 years. During this time redevelopment and relocation works across the remainder of the college’s campus sites will be undertaken.

“After 10 years use it is anticipated the site will be vacated by the college and the buildings will be returned to an office use.”

It adds: “The college has stated they wish to start using the site from September 2012, should planning permission be granted.”

The proposed campus would accommodate around 600 students and about 100 staff at any one time.

The majority of teaching will take place between 9am and 4pm, Monday to Friday but a limited number of evening classes are also proposed.

There are five buildings on the office park, off Victoria Road, but it is proposed to use three for the campus – although only the first and second floors will be used in one block.

The site is situated within the Headingley Conservation Area and the college also wants permission to extend car parking to 92 spaces and carry out various alterations to ensure the site is a suitable campus.

Objectors say the development will increase traffic and are concerned that this will lead to more cars being parked on surrounding streets.

Local residents also have concerns over an increase in student numbers in the area.

However, the report to members says: “There is some concern from the representations raised about the potential impacts of large numbers of young students visiting the area.

“It is noted that the age of the students is such that they would for the most part be present during teaching hours only and not have the type of community impact associated with the University students.

“It is not considered that the impact of young people visiting the site could amount to grounds for refusal.”

Objectors include The South Headingley Community Association and the North Hyde Park Neighbourhoods Association. Coun Martin Hamilton (Lib Dem, Headingley) says that while he is in favour of the site being brought back into use, he is concerned about the impact on local roads and fears those attending the college will park on surrounding street.

In the report officers say the applicant is being asked to contribute to Traffic Regulation Orders in surrounding streets to control parking.

The report concludes: “The office buildings subject to this application have been empty for a number of years and seem unlikely to find office tenants in the current climate.”

“This application presents the opportunity to provide a positive new use for the buildings whilst also supporting the development of a major employer and education provider in the city,” the report adds.

joanne.ginley@ypn.co.uk