Leeds planners spell out hurdles for White Rose expansion proposals

Developers looking to expand a retail centre in south Leeds have been asked to talk to local authorities in neighbouring Bradford, Wakefield and Kirklees about the possible impact of their plans.

Land Securities and The Evans Property Group announced last month that they want to add a multi-screen cinema, restaurants and cafes, and some new shops to the White Rose Centre in Morley, south Leeds, as well as expand the existing Debenhams and Primark stores there.

Councillors on Leeds City Council’s new strategic plans panel get their first chance to comment on the plans for the out-of-town centre at a meeting next week.

As the plans are at the pre-application stage (an outline application is expected before the New Year), no decisions will be taken, but judging by a report prepared for the meeting by council officers, the proposals face several major planning hurdles.

Conflict with “centres-first” policy

Hurdle number one is that local and national planning policies state that town and local centres are the preferred locations for retail and leisure development.

So, the report says:

“The proposals would result in a significant increase in the level of retail floor space on this out-of-centre site, which would conflict the centre-first approach advocated in the current UDP (Unitary Development Plan – the framework plan for development in Leeds) and the more recent guidance provided in (the government’s National Panning Policy Framework) NPPF and the Council’s own Core Strategy.”

Impact on local cinemas

Hurdle number two comes with the inclusion of a cinema in the expansion plans. According to the NPPF, out-of-town sites should only be considered suitable for cinemas if more central locations are not available.

For the application to go through it’s going to have to be demonstrated that a cinema at White Rose wouldn’t have a negative impact on Leeds only existing multiplex, The Light, on the multiplex planned for the city centre as part of the Eastgate development, or on the smaller, specialist Everyman cinema which will form part of the Trinity development.

“Assurances will need to be sought that there will be no impact on these existing city centre facilities as a result of the proposals,” the report says.

Then there’s the hurdle that’s presented by the three new planned retail units. These, according to the planning officers’ report, raise “particular concern”.

“These three smaller units could accommodate uses similar to those which could be provided within smaller nearby centres such as Morley, Middleton and Dewsbury Road and therefore have the potential to significantly impact on existing investment within these nearby centres,” the report says.

Debenhams and Primark expansion – what if?

Debenhams, Leeds – what if?

Giving the green light to the planned expansion of the Debenhams and Primark stores doesn’t appear to be straightforward either.

While both retailers say they intend to retain their stores in nearby Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield, what happens if the recession hits and it’s a city centre Debenhams or Primark that bites the dust rather than the one at White Rose?

That’s an eventuality that’s causing concern to Leeds Civic Trust – a concern that’s echoed by planning officers in their report.

“Members’ (councillors’) thoughts would be appreciated as to what assurances in this respect should be sought from these retailers as part of the scheme in terms of assessing the impact of the development and ensuring that it would not impact detrimentally on the well-being of these existing centres,” it says.

Wider consultation suggested

Windsor Court shopping centre in Morley

All in all, it looks like the developers have a lot of leg work to do to assess the impact of the expansion within the region and closer to home in south Leeds:

“A critical part of the consideration of these proposals relates to their impact not only on Leeds city centre, but also on the town and local centres around the White Rose centre such as Morley, and on centres beyond the Leeds boundary including Wakefield, Bradford and Kirklees,” the report says.

“… an impact assessment and sequential test for the development addressing the implications for Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and Kirklees as well as other centres in south Leeds is to be submitted as part of the application,” it adds. “The applicants have been requested to contact these authorities as part of their pre-application discussions.”

While acknowledging the consultation that’s gone on so far, Council officers have drawn up a list of “local community groups and stakeholders” who, they suggest, should also be encouraged to have their say about the expansion plans.

No word yet from Hammerson

Hammerson’s planned Eastgate development in Leeds

Who we haven’t heard from yet in all of this is Hammerson, developer of the Eastgate retail and leisure development in Leeds.

This time last year Hammerson was writing to Leeds City Council in no uncertain terms, insisting that there should be no further development at White Rose till at least 2016.

So far they don’t appear to have commented on the latest plans by rivals Land Securities to expand White Rose.

There’s still time.

Unless they’ve changed their minds.

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7 Responses to Leeds planners spell out hurdles for White Rose expansion proposals

  1. Bywater blog says:

    It is a really complex issue; should we allow out of town centers? We already have this one. As a Morley resident, I want the best for Morley, so a picture house at the old pavilion would be great. But as with any built up area, is there enough parking? We are building houses, in Morley and other areas, on green and brown belt land, so no there is not enough land for a large development that would bring lots of cars and people. In todays multi national world, everything is large, international. A small cinema for Morley would be ideal. I would favour our tax system favouring the small business, but what will work in the real world is what is best. Perhaps the owners of the White Rose could give large sum of money towards the funding towards a train station?

  2. Aaron says:

    Booo! Getting into the city centre to any shopping or go to the cinema is expensive, time consuming, and a huge hassle. Whereas the White Rose is fantastic alternative.

    I at the very least support the idea of a cinema at the White Rose as it would be far easier for a night out than trying to get into Leeds.

    That being said, I do have my concerns about the impact on Morley, however, on the grand scale of things, they are small developments and the idea they could affect Bradford, Wakefield and Kirklees is an exaggeration to say the least.

  3. Dave (MARC) says:

    The impact of this development would be a problem for Morley As mentioned the proposed building around The Morley area is is about 7000 + homes many along the A653 that is a problem within its self .Any one who has tried to travel along the A653 at certain times will know how bad it gets .As to a cinema I bet the Show case owners will be a bit put out .
    As to Wakefield Bradford and Kirklees you will not know where one starts and one stops if all the proposed building get the go ahead .Start thinking now people first .

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