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What Does the Future Hold for South Bank Leeds? You Decide…

· Ali Turner · Discussion

Plans are afoot to double the size of the city centre through the continued regeneration of South Bank Leeds.

South Bank Leeds

South Bank Leeds is set to double the size of the city centre and you can help shape what it becomes. From parks and public spaces to a rejuvenated waterfront and new Leeds Station – fill out the survey and have your say!

The transformation of South Bank Leeds is impressive to behold, but it’s not done yet – and as they move into the next phase, Leeds City Council are inviting you to have your say on its future.

When it comes to South Bank Leeds, there are some seriously exciting times ahead. Riding on the wave of successful developments like Granary Wharf, Leeds Dock, Brewery Wharf and UTC Leeds, new plans have been released to help drive forward the area’s regeneration, effectively doubling the size of the city centre, and creating an aspirational space to live, work and socialise.

What’s happened so far?

Holbeck Urban Village

Credit: Tom Joy

The South Bank was once a bustling hub of activity, an essential cog in the wheels of the industrial revolution, but by the second half the 20th Century, it had fallen into decline with many of the iconic buildings demolished or left empty. Plans for its regeneration actually began in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that things really got moving.

Since then, the area has changed beyond recognition. It’s now a hub for modern business, with over 300 creative and digital businesses in the area, and the same can be said for its residential standing with 2,000 new homes at award-winning developments like Candle House and Waterman’s Place. Along the way, we’ve seen some of the South Bank’s most prized heritage sites restored, with Tower Works, Round Foundry and Marshalls Mill among them.

New Station Entrance

Credit: Ali Turner

It doesn’t end there though, because South Bank Leeds is quickly becoming the new educational hub. Both Leeds City College and Leeds College of Building have new campuses here, and they’re accompanied by the newly opened Ruth Gorse Academy and UTC Leeds. In fact, the South Bank’s regeneration is moving at a rapid pace – in the last 18 months alone, £500 million of investment has been announced, including Burberry moving its operations to Leeds, Vastint acquiring the 22 acre Tetley Brewery Site and Citu’s proposals for a £125 million Climate Innovation District.

All this, alongside the sparkly new Southern Entrance to Leeds Station, has helped to make the South Bank an even more attractive proposition for businesses, residents and developers – but now we need to drive the next stage forward together.

What’s next for South Bank Leeds?

Leeds Train Station HS2

The new plans for the South Bank are even more ambitious than the ones that came before, but they’re not yet set in stone. They’ve got a framework, a vision if you will, and it lays out what could be done, including new public spaces, landmark buildings and an integrated station that will transform the Dark Arches into a concourse between HS2 and the existing station. But right now, they’re just ideas, because what you say will help shape their future plans. So you could inspire them to have a children’s playground in the park or encourage them to make public transport a priority.

An aspirational, yet inclusive plan for the future

South Bank Leeds

Hammarby Sjöstad © Erik Lefvander, Fabege

The aim here is to turn the South Bank into a leading European destination for investment, learning, living, creativity and leisure. But what does that mean? Well, basically, they’re going to build on what they’ve got, turning the 185 hectare space into an extension of the city centre, with the river at its heart.

The promise of HS2 will act as an incubator, driving investment in the South Bank, so you can expect a slew of new developments, both commercial and residential – and they, in turn, will help to create 35,000 new jobs and 4,000 new homes. The South Bank will be a place where independents work alongside global corporations, where families live next door to young professionals – and the local facilities will reflect that with parks, public spaces and beautifully designed streets that make residents feel safe.

The South Bank’s regeneration will help to establish Leeds as one of the leading lights of the north, an ambitious city that can compete with the likes of Liverpool and Manchester. But it’s arguably the local impact that’s most important here, because it will also help to reconnect South Leeds to the city centre, with a series of new public transport routes that will help local communities to take advantage of the new opportunities that exist here.

A host of new parks and public spaces

South Bank Leeds

Woolwich Square, Gustafon Porter © Chris Mansfield

You’re always telling us that you want more green space in the city centre and now you’re going to get it – the question is, what do you actually want? They’ve put three plans on the table, but they’re really just a jumping off point to get you thinking about what you want.

It could be a huge patch of open space, perfect for events. Imagine going to a music, food or arts festival, right in the heart of a city centre park. Not your thing? Maybe you’d prefer a network of interconnected parks or a corridor of green space taking you from the river to the Education Precinct and Leeds College of Building? Whichever you prefer, they’ll all have one thing in common – the new park will be at least four and a half times the size of Millennium Square.

Alongside the park, there will be at least another five more public spaces. They want to create a world-class waterfront, so the park and two of the new public spaces will be on the riverside – and they want you to tell them what to do with them. We’re thinking row boats, water sports and floating bars, but perhaps you have something else in mind? The other spaces are equally open to feedback. So if you want free sports pitches, speak up. If you’re after playgrounds, tell them. If you just want a bench and pretty view to enjoy your lunch, holler.

We know what you’re thinking – what if it floods? Well, the Flood Alleviation Scheme is already underway, which should reduce the chance of flooding down to once every 75 years, but they’re also building additional flood protection schemes into the South Bank framework. Think public spaces that can store water in the event of flooding, strategically diverting flood water through streams, and roofs that absorb water for reuse in the area.

A new way of getting around

South Bank

The High Line © James Corner Field Operations (lead design) with Diller, Scofidio & Renfro, and Piet Oudolf

It’s fair to say that people are pretty passionate about transport in Leeds, and the South Bank vision is paving the way for a major shake up. The biggest change is their proposal to create a City Boulevard with segregated lanes for cyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Fast moving traffic will be encouraged to go around the city, rather than through it, with a series of new park and ride sites set-up to make commuting easier.

Public transport will get an overhaul too. Right now, there’s a serious shortage of buses connecting the South Bank to local communities in Beeston, Holbeck and Hunslet – that’s something they’ll be looking to change with more and better bus services coming into the area. So what new routes would you want and what would make moving around the city easier for you?

And then there’s Leeds Station. Over 100,000 people pass through it every day and that number is expected to double over the next 30 years, so it needs a serious overhaul. The council has already appointed world-renowned development experts The Atkins Consortium to transform the station – they’re the people behind the award-winning revamp of King’s Cross Station in London, so we’re in good hands, but they want to know what you think. Should we turn Neville Street and the Dark Arches into a shared concourse between HS2 and the existing station? Should City Square be closed to general traffic to create a vibrant welcome to the city? This is your chance to have your say.

Have your say on the South Bank’s future

The new vision for South Bank Leeds is, first and foremost, for the people. So before they move forward, they want to know what you think. Do you want children’s playgrounds or a major events space? Should pedestrians and cyclists be prioritised or is public transport more important? Take the South Bank Leeds survey online now or simply write your thoughts in the form below and hit ‘Send Now’.

Cover image © West 8 – Simco Wavedeck at Toronto Central Waterfront