To receive and consider the attached report of the Chief planning Officer regarding a pre-application presentation for the conversion and extension of Wade House to form student accommodation and the construction of new 35 storey tower building for student accommodation use.
The Chief Planning Officer submitted a pre-application presentation for the conversion and extension of Wade House to form student accommodation and the construction of a new 35 storey tower building for student accommodation use.
Members had visited the site earlier in the day. At the meeting Members were shown slides, photographs and CGI’s.
Members were informed of the following points:
· Wade House is part of the Merrion Centre estate which was built in the 1960’s.
· In 2019 the applicant had attended Plans Panel with a proposal for offices and retail units which was approved at the Panel. However, there was no market for office accommodation and it was now thought to be more sustainable as student accommodation.
· The proposal would retain and re-use as much of the site as possible. Wade House would up to 3 storeys in height with the new building at 100 Merrion Centre being up to 35 storeys. The use of the buildings would be split into student accommodation but with the retail element retained with access from the Merrion Centre. It was noted that the applicants had used the Leeds Tall Buildings SPD as guidance for the layout.
· It was intended that this site would be a walkable accessible site with new pedestrian and cycle routes.
· Wade Lane access would be made safe and secure for new residents.
· The proposal was for a contemporary design with emerging public realm and roof terraces.
· The site was thought to be sustainable as they plan to retain and re-use Wade House and the future use of the 35 storey building could be easily adapted to be used for residential or hotel use if student accommodation was no longer required, with proximity to amenities.
Member’s discussions included:
· The applicant needed to ensure that they worked with a student accommodation provider and ensure that the accommodation was suitable for all students not just wealthy students. It was noted that a provider had not been found yet.
· Members noted that the previous planning permission had not gone ahead as the deal had fallen away.
· The area is a traditional Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) area but would still require a survey to be undertaken to ensure that there was a demand for this type of accommodation in this location.
· Although an emerging design, the conceptual appearance was welcomed compared to the appearance of the current building.
· Some Members were of the view that the accommodation could be aimed at students who were in the later years of university. Student mix and affordability were important factors for this scheme.
· The Scheme needed to ensure that it addresses the climate emergency issues.
· Some Members raised concerns in relation to the proposed access on Wade Lane which was currently used for service vehicles. It was noted that services would use the basement for access and storage instead of Wade Lane. Concerns were also raised in relation to the courtyard proposed as amenity space which would be overshadowed by tall buildings and too small for the proposed 1,000 students who may wish to use it.
· Although the buildings potentially formed part of a cluster of tall buildings around the Merrion Centre, there was some general concern that the proposed new building would be clearly visible from Millennium Square and adversely affected the setting of Leeds City Museum. The proposal needed to compliment the surrounding heritage buildings. Member’s suggestions included roof terraces and stepped in terraces to create a more interesting design.
· They were of the view that the amenity space and access off Wade Lane needed to be a bright, vibrant and safe area for the residents.
· Concerns were also raised in relation to the impact on amenities such as GP provision.
Member’s provided feedback on questions set out at page 71 of the submitted report:
· Do Members consider that the proposed use of the site for student accommodation to the uppers floors and use class E commercial use to one unit at ground floor, with the resulting loss of potential retail space, is acceptable in principle?
Members were of the view that there was an excess of vacant retail premises in the city centre so to lose some would be acceptable in this case. The use of the building for students was acceptable, but there were concerns with regard to amenity space.
· Subject to confirmation of detailed proposals do Members consider that the living conditions within the student accommodation would be acceptable?
Members were of the view that they were unable to comment on the living conditions as this was a pre application and wait for further details of the accommodation. However, Members wished to see proposals coming forward which would address the accessibility of pedestrians along Wade Lane to ensure that it was safe and secure.
· Do Members support the emerging design, scale and massing?
Members were of the view that the design and scale required more work and needed to consider how it was viewed from points in the city centre to work with the surrounding buildings.
RESOLVED – To note the content of the report and presentation.