A major residential-led mixed-use project in Leeds has been granted planning permission, finally providing a new use for a site that was cleared in 2008. 

The 2.8 acre site on Lisbon Street in the city centre used to be home to the Leeds International Swimming Pool, a facility that was notorious for being just centimetres too short to be counted as an Olympic pool. The 1960s structure was demolished in 2008 and was to make way for a new skyscraper, only for the project to be cancelled due to the impact of the financial crisis. 

Since then it has been used as a car park, but now the site will be redeveloped by the partnership of Marrico Asset Management and Helios Real Estate. The £270 million scheme will involve four high rise buildings, of 15, 22, 24 and 33 storeys respectively.

Work should now start in the spring on the first two buildings, of 22 and 33 storeys, which will contain over 600 apartments on a build-to-let basis. This will be followed by the 24-storey student accommodation block with around 550 beds, and a 15-storey aparthotel.

In addition, there will be 150,000 sq ft of commercial space, plus leisure and retail facilities, while around half of the footprint of the site will be landscaped with gardens and open space, bringing much-needed greenery to the city centre.

The need for crane hire in Yorkshire has grown in recent years due to the increase in the number of tall buildings in the city, and the Lisbon Street cluster may add significantly to this. 

At present, Leeds has three buildings fitting the definition of a skyscraper of being over 100 metres tall. All three are 21st century constructions, with the tallest of all, the 114 metres (374 ft) Altus House, being completed this year. According to Emporis, 12 of the 20 tallest buildings in Leeds were built since the turn of the Millennium. 

While this figure is less than some cities, such as Manchester, Leeds is leading the way in Yorkshire. Sheffield has the only other building stall enough to be given skyscraper status, the 101 metre St Paul’s Tower. Below this level, however, Sheffield’s present skyline also owes much to 21st century construction, which accounts for 11 of its 20 tallest buildings.

These two cities contrast with Bradford, where the 19th century city hall is the tallest building at 66 ft (216 ft), the only building above 200 ft in the city. None of its 20 highest buildings has emerged since the 1970s.  

A key question for Leeds is whether the growth of the city will continue or slow down after the announcement that the HS2 connection has been cancelled, a move softened by the news that it will finally get a long-awaited tram system to match those of Sheffield, Manchester and other cities. 

Reflecting on the development, Marrico partner Mark Barnes expressed optimism that the Lisbon Street project will help bring further investment to Leeds city centre. He remarked: “The scheme will reinforce the confidence in the continuing regeneration of the area, acting as a catalyst for further ongoing investment and regeneration."