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15 Big Changes Coming to Leeds That You Might Not Know About

· James Tweddle · Discussion

It’s all happening in Leeds right now.

X1 South Bank

Take 5 minutes to get up to speed on what’s happening in Leeds right now…

As we hurtle towards the end of another year, it felt like a good time to catch up on the great things happening in the city. So here it is, our list of the big developments and changes coming to Leeds in the not so distant future. From a new tower that will transform the city’s skyline to a traffic-solving reroute for Leeds United fans, these are the changes going on behind the scenes.

A new motorway will provide a lifeline for East Leeds

East Leeds Orbital Road

Credit: Heather Magner

Work on the East Leeds Orbital Road (ELOR) finally got underway this month. Stretching from Red Hall to Thorpe Park, the new 7.5 kilometre dual carriageway is designed to connect North and East Leeds together to ease the ring road traffic from the 5,000 new homes currently in the pipeline. At a cool £80 million, it’s the biggest infrastructure project we’ve seen in Leeds for 50 years.

Contractors Balfour Beatty have just broken ground on the first two phases, a year-long project that will see improvements made to the A61 Harrogate Road roundabout and the A6120 outer ring road at Roundhay Park Lane. Once that’s done, they’ll tackle the rest of the route, with tree planting, dedicated cycleways, pedestrian walkways and even an equestrian path.

The top end of the city is getting two new hotels

Northern Civic Quarter

After a few bumps in the road, there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Idé Real Estate’s ambitious building plans. Last March, London-based Idé were made the preferred choice to redevelop Leeds City Council’s fleet of three Grade II listed buildings – Leonardo, Thoresby and 2 Great George Street.

With over 86,000 square foot of space on offer, the plan is to create two hotels, an office block, a restaurant, a cafe and a bar, with a family-friendly public space in between. After the original plans were rejected as “disrespectful” to the surrounding areas, the new designs have gone down a treat and the final stage of planning permission is expected to be passed before the end of the year.

One of Leeds’ hidden gems is becoming a world-class venue

Howard Assembly Room

Credit: Enjoy Design

It’s been one of Leeds’ finest cultural institutions for 10 years, but Howard Assembly Room will soon have a bigger part to play in the city’s development. Opera North has been given the green light to create an £18 million ‘world-class centre of music’ in the Grade II listed building, and the plans look very exciting.

You can forget having to go through Leeds Grand Theatre, as the new all-day arts complex will have its own entrance and box office. The four vacant shop units underneath it will be refurbished to create a brand new restaurant and bar, joined together by a glass atrium. Opera North’s HQ, Premier House, is in line for an upgrade too, with a re-cladded front, two-storey rehearsal space extension and ground floor education suite.

There’s new hope for gridlocked Leeds United fans

Anyone that lives south of the city centre knows how awful the traffic gets around Elland Road on match days, but plans are afoot that could change all that. Leeds City Council has unveiled a proposal to create a two-way road that will join Bobby Collins Way and Lowfields Road, routing traffic round the back of the Revie Stand.

Set to cost £5 million, the new road will create a shortcut for supporters to the motorway on match days, and the rest of the time it will be used to fast-track buses. If all goes well, planning permission should pass before the end of the year, and work will start in the spring. With another route away from the ground, it should take some of the pressure off the park-and-ride, which the council already plans to expand with another 550 spaces.

X1 is creating a new neighbourhood on the South Bank

X1 South Bank

There are a ton of South Bank developments in the works, but one of the biggest has just received planning permission. X1 has been designed with property consultants Knight Knox. The £210 million mixed-use project on Hunslet Road will be built over 5 phases, one for each building. All together, there will be a whopping 928 new apartments, along with office, retail and public green space.

Phase 1 construction is planned to start in December and deliver a 12-story building, complete with 127 flats and townhouses, a gym, rooftop gardens and a cafe on the ground floor. Even if you’re not going to live there, X1 is designed to be part of the South Bank community, so at least a fifth of the site will be open to the public.

Leeds Playhouse is adding a brand new underground theatre

West Yorkshire Playhouse

Credit: PagePark Architects

Leeds Playhouse is in the midst of a £15.8 million refurbishment, due to be finished in the middle of 2019. It’s the first update the site will have had in almost 30 years, and they’re going all out with improved disabled access and a brand new street-facing entrance, as well as a new restaurant, bar and coffee shop.

Most exciting of all, Leeds Playhouse will reopen with a new theatre. The Bramall Rock Void will be built among the building’s foundations in the undercroft and the 100-seater theatre will provide a completely different atmosphere for a range of cutting-edge productions. It will also house a dedicated space for their youth development programme, where the next generation of Leeds actors can learn their craft.


The Parklane Group is transforming a library into a living space

Burley Library

Headingley’s Grade II listed Burley Library will soon become a haven for young professionals with a combined co-living and co-working space. Built in 1926, the library was closed in February 2016 because of health and safety fears about the building’s condition, but now the Parklane Group want to bring it back to life.

Designed by Yeme Architects, the hub will keep the library’s original features, from the exposed brick to ironworks and even the old library bookshelves. Just behind it, a 5-storey extension will hold 60 one bedroom and studio apartments with glazed winter garden balconies and communal facilities.

The Holbeck Urban Village is putting its stamp on the Leeds skyline

Midland Mills

Midland Mills has been gathering dust as a car park and scrap yard for a fair few years now. But that could be about to change with plans to build a 33-storey tower as part of a 306-apartment development on the Grade II listed site.

Dating back to 1802, the historic buildings will be converted into 22 flats and around 5,000 square foot of commercial space. Behind the Mills, they’re building a new centrepiece, the Midlands Tower will be a residential skyscraper with 284 one, two and three-bed apartments inside and 144 cycle spaces underneath. The plans are currently awaiting council permission, so watch this space.

There’s a new £40 million centre of innovation at Leeds Uni

Nexus, University of Leeds

A £40 million innovation centre is set to open in Leeds early next year. Nexus will bring businesses together with academics in health, engineering, data and the environment to solve big problems – and the ripples of their work will be felt around the world. This custom-built space stands at 6,684 square metres and it’s been designed with problem-solving, idea generation and collaboration in mind.

The facilities inside are state-of-the-art, with 60 spacious offices, 12 purpose-built laboratories, 11 meeting rooms and a 120-seat lecture theatre all spread across 6 floors. There’s even a £13.5 million fitness and wellbeing centre for when your brain needs a break, and it’s all due to open in the spring.

The Leeds ice rink is finally happening

It’s been 6 years of promises and setbacks, but the ice rink on Elland Road is finally set to become a reality. First proposed in 2012, construction was due to begin under original owners the Ice Rink Company in 2014, then 2015. Builders arrived in 2016 and put up a timber structure, before half of it blew down in a winter gale in late 2017.

But now it’s been taken over by Planet Ice and it’s due to be ready for action in January 2019. With room for 1,800 people, you can skate to your heart’s content on their enormous ice rink, as well as try out classes, get a taste of ice hockey or even join their dance events. Once you’ve had your fill, head to the restaurant and bar on site for refreshments too.

Say hello to one of the world’s most energy-efficient developments

Citu Climate Innovation District

The first residents are due to move into Citu’s cutting-edge Climate Innovation District at the end of the year. This zero-carbon community will be made up of 520 homes, alongside two acres of greenery with more than 60 trees and a string of jetties on the waterfront. The houses themselves have a modern design, with 3-storey light wells, floor-to-ceiling windows and rooftop terraces, but it’s their green creds that make them stand out.

These are the first houses built in the city centre for 90 years and they’ve pulled out all the stops. In fact, they’re so energy-efficient that it will only take 1,019 kWh a year to heat your home, compared to the standard 23,000 kWh for a typical detached 4-bed. They’re 10 times more air-tight than UK building regulations require and they use a state-of-the-art heat-exchange system to transfer heat from the stale air being pushed out of your home to the fresh air coming in.

The city will have a brand new tallest building

Water Lane South Bank

Credit: FCB Studios

Another crucial development is about to break ground on Leeds’ South Bank. CEG’s £350 million project will transform six acres of Holbeck into a mixture of homes and offices, alongside retail sites and space for parking.

The first building is double-sized office block Globe Point, followed by Globe Square, Globe Arches and Beck Court. But the most exciting prospect is the Globe Waterside residential tower. At 40-storeys, it would leapfrog Bridgewater Place Tower to become the city’s tallest building. Inside, there will be 750 new homes, from the 5th floor right up to the top. As landmark South Bank projects go, it’s a great place to start.

Leeds Bradford Airport is getting a massive upgrade

Leeds Bradford Airport

Leeds Bradford Airport is preparing to fly a million more passengers than ever before, as plans have been approved for a new £12 million terminal building. As one of the UK’s fastest growing airports, the extra space is long overdue, with the option for more destinations than has been possible in the past.

By the end of 2019, we can expect new immigration, customs and baggage claim facilities, as well as more departure gates and a slew of new restaurants and bars. There are plans for a new pier between the new and old buildings too, which should make it quicker and easier to get around the airport. Now if only we had a better way of getting there…

The old Yorkshire Post building is becoming a three-tiered renter’s dream

Yorkshire Post Building

Work on one of Leeds’ biggest developments is set to start this month at the former Yorkshire Post building. It’s taken four years to get to this point. The 4.6-acre site was first cleared in 2015, but ISG are now ready to progress with the three stepped tower blocks that will make up the PRS building.

The first 18-storey building should be opening early in 2021 with 242 brand new rental-only apartments aimed at young professionals, along with a luxury lounge on the eleventh floor to take advantage of the stunning views across the River Aire. The remaining plots have planning permission for 400,000 square foot to be split between them, currently earmarked for more luxury apartments.