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What is Leeds’ South Bank?
Firstly, you might be asking what exactly is South Bank? South Bank is a large area south of Leeds’ River Aire consisting of the districts of Holbeck and Hunslet. For many years the area has been associated with old derelict buildings, industrial estates and wasteland. It also borders areas with high crime rates and some of the highest levels of poverty in the city.
That said, the South Bank area is interspersed with many attractive listed and unused buildings in major need of restoration, providing fantastic foundations. Foundations Leeds City Council intend to make full use of.
What is the Leeds South Bank Project?
The Leeds South Bank project is a series of initiatives that seeks to transform the area and double the size of Leeds city centre. Covering an area equivalent to 250 football pitches, the project is one of the largest regeneration projects the UK has ever witnessed. Furthermore, with £500m public investment and billions of pounds of private investment it has garnered considerable national and international backing.
Leeds City Council’s overarching vision is to turn South Bank into a ‘distinctive European destination for investment, living, learning, creativity and leisure’. The framework devised by Leeds City Council sets out criteria that it wishes South Bank to achieve:
How has the South Bank Project progressed?
Over a decade has passed since plans were laid out for the implementation of the South Bank Regeneration project. The question, therefore, is how well has it progressed during that time? Below we will look at some of the initiatives that make up the overall project, how they are progressing and whether the South Bank project is truly being realised.
Comfortably the largest and arguably the most impressive of the initiatives that makes up the South Bank Project. Once completed, Aire Park will be an enormous mixed-use district surrounding Tetley’s former brewery site. At the heart the new district will be an expansive city park with large green spaces and hundreds of newly planted trees. In fact, Aire Park will be the largest new park in the UK once completed, providing all important green spaces for Leeds residents. Leeds City Council officers go as far as calling it the first major 21st-century park, adding it would be a “catalyst for regeneration” in the surrounding area.
However, the ambitious plan does not just incorporate a new park. Towards the periphery of the expansive project there will be mixed-use commercial space, residential buildings and retail and leisure amenities.
The first phase of Aire Park will include, amongst other things:
A 2-hectare city park, with hundreds of new trees
85,000 m2 of new office space
15,000 m2 of retail, education, leisure or health space
Up to 850 new homes
Over 2,000 m2 of outdoor event space including an amphitheatre
400 bedroom hotel
How is it progressing?
Vastint, a multinational real estate company acquired the 8.1 hectare site and buildings within it in 2016. They have been working closely with Leeds City Council ever since and were granted planning permission for phase one at the end of 2018. Since then, the enormous South Bank site has been carefully prepared ready for development to commence. In September 2021, the developer began pouring the concrete ready for building works to begin.
A quick browse of the dedicated website suggests that the project is on track and will complete in 2023. CityRise has visited the site boundaries and can confirm that work is well underway with heavy machinery and workers busy. Although the project has a long way to go until completion, we are confident it will be delivered within the suggested timeframes.
CityRise Verdict: Work Progressing well
Situated in Holbeck Urban Village, CEG Temple is a mixed-use project being delivered by developer CEG. The scheme comprises several individual projects, namely One Global Square, Globe Point, Drapers Yard and Temple Works. With nearly 200,000 sq ft of office space the area will become a new commercial hub in Leeds and increase the footfall to South Bank dramatically. Its proximity to Leeds central train station and strategic location in the city has seen all office space pre-leased before being anywhere near completion.
Much like the rest of the South Bank projects there has been plenty of consultation around the incorporation of public spaces and other local amenities. CEG Temple is no different and will be improving outdoor spaces and providing lots of new amenities such as café’s, restaurants, bars, pharmacies and supermarkets. Holbeck Urban Village will be transformed into an exciting place to live and work, helping South Bank realise its ambitions. CEG Temple will be credited for much of this transformation.
Looking forwards, CEG are not planning on slowing down and, instead, are focusing on developing on more sites in the area. In fact, they have achieved further outline planning for up to 1.1m sq ft of office space, retail, leisure, hotel, health, education and community uses, and up to 750 new homes. This will be delivered in five phases over 12 years and become a new gateway to the city.
How is it Progressing?
Since acquiring the sites around five years ago CEG have been concentrating on getting full planning permission and preparing for the commencement of building works. The first project to get underway in early 2021 was Globe Point. The 37,800 sq ft seven-storey building, which will provide workspace for over 400 people, has a flat iron design, which will provide views across the city from the roof terrace gardens.
The contractor, BAM Construction, have quickly erected Globe Point and will be begin preparing the interiors for its opening in summer 2022. The larger site homing One Globe Square is also seeing movement, although this development will not be completed until at least 2024.
It appears that the famous grade I-listed temple works building might be in for a slightly slower process. Weather-proofing works are underway as a temporary measure while more ambitious plans for its long-term security are being finalised.
CEG had initially wanted to deliver an impressive 40-storey residential building as part of the temple regeneration. It seems as though planning permission for this is in doubt and we will need to wait to see if this project materialises. Either way, the overall progress across all sites has been impressive and we are excited to follow them through to completion.
CityRise Verdict: Progressing well
Tower Works is a former factory located at the heart of Holbeck Urban Village directly next to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. It is seen as a distinctive landmark in the Leeds skyline characterised by its three listed Italianate towers. The factory has for decades been seen as one of the most important sites for the South Bank Regeneration project. Its waterside location, easy access to Leeds City Train Station and proximity to many bars and restaurants will ensure its success.
In 2020 plans were approved to transform the old factory into 245 one, two and three bedroom apartments to rent. The developer intends on ‘combining iconic buildings of the past with the newest neighbourhood of the city centre’. They anticipate that the development will offer residents the very best of waterside living in the city and propel Holbeck Urban Village as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in South Bank
How is it Progressing?
Since planning was granted in 2020 there has been plenty of movement down at Tower Works. Sir Robert Alpine was appointed lead contractor and various consultation have been had with bodies such as the Canal & River Trust. The developer is keen to ensure that Tower Works fully embraces the listed towers and improves the canal footpaths adjacent to the site.
An update from the developer in August 2021 stipulated that they are ahead of schedule. The contractors were delivering the foundations, ground beams and pile caps and have installed utility services across site. CityRise went to check out the site this month and could see some incredible progress. The superstructure of at least one of the buildings was up and the CGI’s along the hoarding showed how the development would combine with the towers and canal seamlessly. We have no doubt it will be an incredible collection of residential buildings once complete.
CityRise Verdict: Progressing Well
The Climate Innovation District located on the river Aire to the east of Leeds city centre is an important project in the city’s fight against climate change. The project aims to turn a large brownfield site into 516 low energy homes in a new environmentally friendly community.
The concept, devised by forward-thinking developer Citu, will convert the industrial environment into a walkable, healthy, family friendly environment. Designs for the townhouses and apartments are based upon Scandinavian urban densities with an exceptional standard of environmental performance.
Furthermore, the onsite factory, Citu Works, will be producing the timber-frame housing system for all 516 homes. The plant has the capability to produce up to 750 low-carbon homes each year. It is among the first of its kind in the UK and is evidence of the technological innovation in the city and South Bank project.
When complete by 2030, the Climate Innovation District will be the UK’s biggest sustainable urban development, complete with a primary school, care home, bars, restaurants, cafes and a bakery.
How is it Progressing?
Citu’s commitment to using sustainable materials, all produced in the onsite factory, will certainly have an impact on the build time for the Climate Innovation District. Steady progress was being made before Covid-19, with many of the townhouses already completed by the end of 2019. Of course, there were some inevitable delays with the pandemic but it appears as though development has picked up pace again. Building work has now started on the apartment block that will sit behind Citu’s ‘solar avenue’ and the second phase of townhouses.
When asking the question whether there has been progress in the Climate Innovation District, the answer must be a resounding yes. Not only are many of the properties completed but actually have people living in them. A community is starting to form and reading interviews from residents it appears that they are very happy with their new homes. Almost all units are selling out as soon as they are released and Citu has increased the original prices because of the impressive demand.
That being said, the Climate Innovation district is not a project that has moved particularly quickly. With work starting nearly 5 years ago and a completion date of 2030, Residents will be in living amongst a building site for quite a while longer.
CityRise Verdict: Progressing well but slowly
The Monk Bridge complex, aptly named after the bridge it is situated next to, is an enormous purpose-built “Build to Rent” neighbourhood in the South Bank area. Once finished, the project will fully unlock the potential of a redundant but very well located Grainger Viaduct whilst supporting the ongoing expansion of the city centre.
The new neighbourhood will comprise five residential buildings and new public spaces on top of and in front of the historic viaduct. Once delivered it will open up access to the canal and riverside and drastically improve the aesthetics of the footpath scenery. The viaduct restoration will open up space within the 20 arches for new restaurants and bars,
In total there will be 665 one, two and three-bedroom apartments to rent across the five buildings. The tallest of these buildings will be 22 storeys with the smallest 12 storeys. The developer believes this granular approach will allow for new pockets of the public realm to be created in-between the buildings. These spaces will be brought to life by beautifully landscaped public space and have various amenities to offer residents and the general public.
How is it Progressing?
Of all the developments in this list Monk Bridge has arguably progressed the quickest. In fact, from receiving planning approval from Leeds City Council earlier in 2021 the developers have wasted no time. All five buildings have now been erected and the developer is now moving on with the exteriors and interiors.
Despite development only starting in the summer of 2021 the first units are expected to be completed in August 2022. CityRise took a stroll down to the site and it is looking fantastic with no apparent delays. Once complete, the five buildings and rejuvenated viaduct space are going to be a fantastic addition to the South Bank and really open up the Leeds and Liverpool canal to the public.
The ambitious Leeds South Bank project has, in some respects, been a slow burner. Five years ago, you would forgive residents of Leeds viewing the plans as mere pipeline dreams.
After all, like many other regeneration projects proposed across the UK, much of the responsibility rests on the bureaucratic and inefficient city councils. Leeds City Council are no stranger to over promising and under delivering on projects and South Bank is arguably one of the largest projects in Leeds’ long and illustrious history.
Fast forward a decade and the situation has been transformed. The Leeds skyline is populated with many cranes. Heavy machinery and builders are busy on almost all brownfield sites in South Bank. The five projects detailed above are by no means an exclusive list of the initiatives that make up South Bank. However, they are some of the more ambitious ones and progress across them all is fantastic.
Leeds is the proud home of CityRise and we are very excited watching it transform into one of the UK’s most impressive cities. The South Bank project in particular offers the ingredients required to propel Leeds fortunes over the next ten years.
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