The phase two plot features heritage buildings and surface parking, with the modern John Lewis building bottom left. Credit: Google Earth

Leeds seeks new direction on Eastgate  

The city council and Hammerson will tear up an existing development agreement, triggering the sale of city centre land for mixed-use development including up to 1,000 homes.

Retail specialist Hammerson’s plans for what was then billed as the Eastgate & Harewood Quarter came through in the mid-2000s, when large-scale retail projects anchored by free-spending department store groups were being rolled out in major cities across the country.

Phase one at Eastgate, the John Lewis-anchored Victoria retail development, opened in 2016, following another major retail project for the city in Trinity Leeds, delivered by LandSec in 2013.

With the years since having been brutal in retail – Debenhams, Arcadia and House of Fraser being among the larger casualties – LCC and Hammerson have since sought a new direction for the second chunk of land assembled for Eastgate, and in 2021 an updated and revised planning brief for Eastgate phase two was produced.

According to the 2021 planning brief, the new scheme could include around 1,000 homes, 500,000 sq ft of office space, and 200,000 sq ft of retail & leisure, with other possibilities including a hotel, student accommodation, education and public open space.

As outlined in the report to go before LCC’s executive board on 22 November, Hammerson has put together proposals “to rebalance the original scheme away from the retail-dominant development that informed the original site assembly, CPO and related Development Agreement with the Council, towards a scheme with a wider mix of uses that will deliver the intentions of the Planning Brief” and has also proposed to appoint a new developer partner to deliver the scheme, reflecting shifts in its own corporate strategy.

Within the footprint of the phase two development area are included some cultural assets, including the grade two-listed Templar House and the Lyons Works building.

The council’s report said that retention and improvement of these assets along with new complementary public realm will be integral in realising the placemaking and connectivity ambitions in the area, as it looks to make Eastgate phase two part of a “cultural axis”.

This axis will connect the Leeds Arena, Grand Theatre, Howard Assembly Rooms and Opera North to the north-west with the Leeds Playhouse, Conservatoire, BBC Yorkshire and Yorkshire Dance/Northern Ballet to the east and a range of locally driven creative and cultural uses based in Mabgate.

Essentially, Leeds has the opportunity to create a neighbourhood that works more effectively for where modern urban design is going – a broader mix of uses cheek by jowl, along with more inclusive and better-designed public space.

As the report outlines, one of the outcomes would hopefully be adding momentum to this part of the city, supporting the ambitions to develop Mabgate and adjoining neighbourhoods such as Lincoln Green in keeping with the council’s plans – as the report said: “This is a genuine opportunity to ‘restitch’ the city and join up recent and future investments to a key ‘city rim’ area of growth.”

Permission is sought from the executive to proceed with the extermination of the original agreement, thus allowing the new phase of development planning to begin in earnest.

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