Developers sent back to the drawing board over plans to refurbish a historic Leeds city centre site

Councillors were torn between the history and heritage of Leeds city centre and the need to allow for new and iconic developments when faced with radical plans for a listed building.

Proposals have been aired that would see partial demolition and rebuilding of the Leonardo Building, conversion of Thoresby Building and 2 Great George Street for a change of use from offices to a mix of hotel, office, restaurant/café and bar uses.

The second part of the scheme is the extension of existing buildings, with a new build hotel on the car park site at The Leonardo Building, Thoresby House and 2 Great George Street.

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Ide Real Estate said they were keen to do something Leeds could be proud of when it discussed its plans at a pre-application hearing at the Civic Hall this afternoon.

Under the complex plans, changes to the Thoresby Building would require demolition of the attached 20th century Leonardo Building (but not the older part) and the roof of the Listed Thoresby Building. A new extension would be built to replace the removed part of the Leonardo Building as well as a second extension across the top of the retained part of the Leonardo Building and the Thoresby Building.

The regenerated set of buildings would be put into use as office space, with ground floor retail, restaurant, cafe and bar uses.

The Listed No 2 Great George Street would be altered internally with the addition of a mezzanine to add in an extra floor space for the creation of a new premium hotel. A second hotel, in a contemporary design is earmarked for the car park as a third new building.

All three buildings will have retail and bars at the ground floor.

However, councillors said it was too imposing and "bullying" its neighbouring buildings.

Coun Peter Gruen said: "This is a unique site and a fantastic opportunity to let your imagination run wild and produce something iconic for the city. By the time you come here you have invested a huge amount of resources and time but are there alternatives in terms of materials and the context of the modern buildings."

Coun Colin Campbell said: "I quite like the idea and it is the sort of building we need on this particular location. But if you look around the intervention that you propose in the new buildings are completely out of character. We are not adverse to something new or different but it is so beyond our normal response to all those things."

Planning officer, Daljit Singh, after hearing the councillors' strong view against the plans explained his department's approach to the proposals. He said: "You don't have to go far to lose sight of these buildings, the roads are not straight and the buildings disappear in many ways. These are not set piece views, the site does not have set piece views because we are moving around it as we go up and down Woodhouse Lane and George Street. We will see them in the context of other buildings, other styles, other ages and other heights."

After a lengthy debate on the plans so far chair of the meeting, Coun James McKenna told developers to come back at a later date as the panel wanted to see the scheme come forward.

Following the meeting, Ronan Faherty, chief executive told The Yorkshire Evening Post: "We welcome the feedback. We will address all concerns and issues. That's why you have the pre-application process. We truly believe in our scheme and the value it will bring to Leeds. It is all about getting the right scheme for the city."