Green light for £100m SimpsonHaugh designed 32-storey residential tower in Leeds city centre

Leeds City Council’s Plans Panel has unanimously resolved to grant detailed planning permission for the redevelopment of 44 Merrion Street, located in the heart of the city’s Cultural District. The £100m scheme will provide accommodation for 660 students in a world-class tall building that rises to 32 storeys.

The SimpsonHaugh designed project will replace a large 1970s office block that was previously home to Spanish banking giant Santander. The mixed-use building, which rises to 99.8metres, will have active uses at street level and deliver significant public realm enhancements. The internal space has been conceived to help provide for the city’s pressing need for state-of-the-art purpose-designed student accommodation, with 573 undergraduate club rooms and studio apartments, together with 87 postgraduate studio apartments.

The development company – Merrion Street Leeds Ltd – is owned by Real Estate Capital Holdings in partnership with Bloombridge LLP. Real Estate Capital Holdings is also a major shareholder in affordable housing specialist Living Space Housing, strategic land company Terra Strategic, and Hayfield – the UK’s Best Small Housebuilder (WhatHouse? and Housebuilder Awards).

Richard Cutler, Director of Merrion Street Leeds Ltd said: “We are delighted to receive detailed planning permission for this landmark scheme. It has taken 18 months of hard work from the whole team to get to this stage and we are very grateful to our stakeholders and Leeds City Council for the support shown.

“The redevelopment of 44 Merrion Street will bring a world-class tall building to the city, help to meet the need for student accommodation from the 60,000 students in the Universities and Colleges of Leeds, and generate much needed construction jobs and permanent jobs in the process.”

Ian Simpson, Founding Partner of SimpsonHaugh said: “Tall buildings are markers for ambition, pride and confidence. They tell a story about a city and its direction of travel and in turn attract people to both visit and put down roots. It is very pleasing to be awarded planning for a 32-storey tower in the current market where investment injections are needed to stimulate the economy. Once built, this evocative, sculptural crystalline form will become home to 660 students, many of whom will hopefully choose to permanently reside in the city region following their graduation.”

The reflective appearance of the tower has led it to being described as a crystalline structure, having taken precedent in its form and materiality from quartz crystals. The design and engineering for the scheme has sustainability at its heart and renewable energy solutions and high thermal efficiency measures have been central to the project brief from the outset.

Richard Cutler, Partner of Bloombridge LLP added: “Everything about this project signifies a strong response to the uncertainties created by Covid-19. As well as providing a design-led home for students, this development will raise the bar for architecture in Leeds’ Cultural District. It will provide new street level retail, arts and cultural space, as well as delivering public realm enhancements – including new trees – within the vicinity of important historic assets such as the Grade I Listed St John’s Church.”

Features of the building include a ground floor arcade-style circulation space and a postgraduate rooftop amenity space. The tower is predominantly composed of cluster apartments – accounting for approximately 73 per cent of the total mix of accommodation. Each cluster has five bedrooms (all with an en-suite bathroom), a separate kitchen and dining space, and a larger communal living area which will be shared with the adjacent cluster. The studio apartments provide a self-contained alternative to cluster living, but the residents will still be able to make use of a wealth of communal facilities on site, whilst being within walking distance of just about everything the resurgent city of Leeds has to offer. Five per cent of the total student bed spaces are allocated as wheelchair accessible.

In addition to SimpsonHaugh & Partners, the world class project team includes Savills, WSP, Re-Form and Paragon.


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BDC 317 : Jun 2024