Saturday, May 12, 2007

Planning permissions...

News of a multi-million pound redevelopment of a section of Leeds city centre that is currently in need of some tender loving care will bring deep joy to the three females in my house.

Because of course, what Leeds is short of is some shops, isn't it ?

You could have fooled me Watson.

The last time I looked Leeds had a huge array of what we will call for the purpose of this document, retail outlets. Personally I'd prefer to call some of them "shite-shops for the low esteemed" but each to his/her own.

As always with these grandiose planning applications there is an outcry against the old buildings that will have to be sacrificed to make way for what is being modestly called "The new Barcelona" or "The new Sydney" or "The new anywhere that sounds chic to your average Leeds resident", but in this case the outcry is more of a whimper against a couple of seedy old pubs that will have to be demolished, other than that there is nothing inthe footpint worth saving, its a disparate part of town consisting of already demolished buildings serving as rip off car parks who charge by the 15 minute period and shabby old warehouses that are jokingly referred to as "the Chinese quarter" because it houses a couple of chinese food wholesalers.

So yes, the whole area needs a facelift, nay, needs knocking down and rebuilding.

But more shops ?

Leeds city centre has been undergoing massive redevelopment over a period of twenty years or so and this time the developers and planners appear to have at least met in the same room once and discussed what they are going to do with the mishmash of shitty 1960's concrete buildings, the legacy of the last round of redevelopment when anyone with a cement mixer and a labourer was allowed to build a lego-stylee blockhouse and call it "the brave new world", those 1960's buildings are all but gone or stripped out and re-clad to suit modern taste, any taste would have done actually as previously they had none.

The result is that to the south and west of the city we have apartment over-saturation - ten years ago someone decided that the city was developing outwards to the uburbs too quickly and that building three bedroomed houses all the time wasn't doing single people any favours, apparently someone in government invented the statistic that the brave new future held a singles society in store for us all, people would not marry and raise kids in this brave new world, they would live on their own in glass fronted apartments high in the sky and drink wine and eat ciabattis at trendy steet bars instead of cooking for themselves in their thre bedroomed suburban dwellings - and so was born the ideal of the city centre apartment.

We laughed at first, who would be so stupid as to want to live in the city centre we all cried, why if you lived in the city centre and worked in the city centre, then you'd never get to commute on our brave new supertram that we'd been promised, how foolish we all cried, only Londoners live in the city centre, and even then, not many of them.

But we were the foolish ones, the new city centre apartment blocks did indeed create a huge demand from the city's singletons, a numerous species which none of us had even noticed up until then, they flocked to the new developments and bought the apartments before they'd even been built and so more developers turned up and promised their dreams of sky-living, glass walls, steel balconies and small bistro style single tables at 100 feet above ground level - they loved it, they bought them, and many bought several and so others rented them.

And now Leeds south and west is chocked full of towering apartment blocks, each different, some being ingenious redevelopments from existing 1960's concrete buildings, most being complete new builds, all of which feature lots of glass, oh to be a window cleaner with a long ladder and a head for heights in Leeds city centre.

We have just opened the tallest of these buildings, the 32 storey Bridgewater Court, a mix of office and apartments to the south of the river it encroaches on the industrial area known as Holbeck or maybe its Hunslet, no-one rally knows any more because the boundaries of what used to be heavily populated working class terraced houses since the 1800's were ripped apart during the 1950's and 60's and replaced with industry - now that industry is relocating and selling its precious nearly city centre plots so that more developers can flood into the city and build even taller blcoks than Bridgewater Court - the Leeds planning office is currently looking at 25 applications for high rise buildings and the average height is 30 to 40 floors, one as high as 54

Theres a very good article here on the new high rise building bom.

So we're pretty well served by apartments and offices then.

So what is needed east of the centre is...shops.

And the females in my house lick their lips in anticipation.

And me and my wallet crouch into a foetal position in the corner and whimper.

How much money can a woman spend in one afternoon given an unlimited number of shops to spend in ?

Unlimited is the answer.

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