The population of Leeds City Centre could be set to explode, should proposals from the council be approved by the government.
Council members are meeting next week to discuss a bid for a share of the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF), a total of £85m from its £2.3bn budget. The money would be used to rapidly accelerate infrastructure in the city centre, supporting the development of a total of 10,000 new homes by 2033.
But council bosses suggest that there’s space for up to 20,000 new homes in the city centre without risking overcrowding, a total which would almost double current figure of roughly 25,000.
The report, due to be scrutinised by the councils executive board on 13/05, states: “There are currently around 25,000 residents in the city centre, largely in the private rented sector, but there is capacity for up to 20,000 new homes, significant resident population growth and an opportunity to ensure greater diversity of tenure.
“It is one of the most sustainable locations for new housing, close to jobs and major transport connections and providing for the reuse of previously developed land at a higher density than is achievable in less central locations.”
It adds that although the city has seen strong housing growth over the last ten years, delivery of housing in the city centre has lagged significantly, with only 395 homes built per year. This is despite planning approvals for close to 8,000 new city centre homes.
Part of the blame can be laid at the economic downturn which put homebuilding on hold for many firms and, more recently, Brexit uncertainty – as was the case with the one-time Hilton Leeds Arena development.
However the council attribute the slow city centre growth to the schemed being hamstrung by a lack of connectivity and local infrastructure, both issues that they intend to use the £85m in funding to address.
The fund totals £2.3bn and if Leeds council’s March bid is successful, they claim infrastructure work will begin in the city centre by the end of 2019.
The council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Richard Lewis, pointed to the success of Leeds’s South Bank programme and noted what can be achieved by investment in expanding the city centre.
He commented: “We know more and more people are now wanting to live in city centres having all key amenities within easy reach.
“This investment would allow us to deliver even more positive growth in the city centre, with a vibrant mixed community and new facilities for everybody to benefit from.”
Regardless of investment from the HIF though, redevelopment in the city centre continues apace this year with dozens of huge projects throughout the city.
One such development is on Greek Street.
Long one of the most popular streets for drinking and dining, the street is in line for a massive transformation in 2019 – the first major change its seen since it was pedestrianised in 2016.
The alterations, which will include new paving, revamped lighting and increased outdoor dining spaces for restaurants is slated to begin soon in preparation for an early summer finish.
Half of the estimated £500k costs are being met by a collection of 12 businesses on Greek Street, whilst council funding will cover the rest. It’s hoped that renovations to the area will contribute to greater footfall in an area of the city which is dominated by banks.
Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake praised the pedestrianisation of Greek Street, saying it helped Greek Street thrive.
She added: "Over 250 new jobs have been created on the street since 2016, and for the first time, every premises at ground floor level is fully occupied by bars or restaurants.
"We are pleased to have secured a significant sum from businesses to deliver this scheme, and it follows on from a successful redevelopment of Bond Court over the last few years, which was also delivered by private funding."