Leeds City Square
The redevelopment of City Square is part of the council’s wider Our Spaces strategy, which aims to deliver new and improved public realm for the people of Leeds. 
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City Square transformation scheme poised to enter important new phase

Plans for the transformation of City Square in Leeds are set to take a significant step forward with the appointment of the expert design team that will help shape the future of this key site.

Leeds-based Re-form Landscape Architecture has been announced as the recommended choice to collaborate with Leeds City Council and other stakeholders on the scheme, with the company’s concept for the new-look City Square due to be worked up and carefully fine-tuned over the course of the next year. The council has long-standing plans in place for a stylish and environmentally friendly redevelopment of the site that could see it trebling in size and closing to through traffic.

As part of these proposals, a competition was launched in September last year to identify an external design team with a proven track record of delivering landmark public spaces in city centres. The competition run by the Royal Institute of British Architects on behalf of the council and contractor Balfour Beatty has now been concluded, with Re-form chosen as the preferred designer. The company’s vision for City Square is entitled ‘The Glade’ and was inspired by the Forest of Loidis, the ancient woodland where the settlement we know as Leeds was built.

Although the designs are still at an early stage, the intention is for the revamped City Square to be a vibrant and inclusive mix of open and shaded areas, with the historic Black Prince statue continuing to take pride of place in a piece of public realm that will offer a world-class welcome to the heart of Leeds. The council’s executive board will be asked to approve the appointment of Re-form at a meeting next Wednesday, June 23, after which the company will begin work on definitive plans that should be brought before councillors for consideration around the middle of next year.

Images of a transformed City Square that have been produced for next week’s executive board meeting should therefore be regarded as a starting point for discussion and debate rather than a set-in-stone representation of the finished scheme.

Councillor Helen Hayden, Leeds City Council’s executive member for infrastructure and climate said:

“City Square is already at the centre of life in Leeds and we want to harness its prime position and rich history to create a truly outstanding space that will be a source of pride for all our residents.

“The passion and enthusiasm shown by Re-form during the competition made it clear that they would be an ideal choice to help us achieve that goal.

“It will be hugely exciting to see how the plans take shape and eventually usher in a bright new era for this important gateway to the centre of Leeds.”

Andrew Price, director at Re-form Landscape Architecture said:

“This is a huge moment for Leeds and other cities around the world, as they seek to adapt to climate change while creating hospitable and prosperous places to live.

“Our team is excited by the prospect of working with the city to shape its future identity and create a space for everyday street culture. Following a year which has brought the freedom and development of children into sharp focus, we want The Glade to be a playful environment, and an example of how children can be welcome participants of city life.”

Subject to executive board approval, Re-form will head up a project team which includes lead engineers Arup, renowned artist Nayan Kulkarni and consultant on childhood and global advocate for children’s play and mobility Tim Gill.

Stephen Semple, area director for Balfour Beatty’s UK Construction Services business said:

“Building on our strong, long-term relationship with Leeds City Council, we are delighted to be a part of creating a world-class public realm space.

“Central to the city’s identity, we are looking forward to developing a design which on completion will become a welcoming space for the residents and visitors of Leeds to enjoy for many generations in the future.”

Martin Hamilton, director of Leeds Civic Trust, which played a role in the competition process said:

“For well over a century, City Square has been our city’s stage where everyone from visitors to residents have had a walk-on part.

“We will support the winning team in re-imagining a City Square that respects the past but creates a green, attractive and accessible space that is fit for the 21st century.”

The redevelopment of City Square is part of the council’s wider Our Spaces strategy, which aims to deliver new and improved public realm for the people of Leeds. While the detailed City Square design proposals will continue to evolve over the next year, ‘The Glade’ will strive to deliver an inclusive and outstanding public space for all residents and visitors to enjoy. The current proposals provide opportunities for informal play to attract children and families which will support the council’s Child Friendly ambitions.

The proposals as they stand also provide a flexible space for cultural activity from small interactions to larger events when required. Other design elements include resting spaces with benches as well as circulation spaces for wheelchairs and buggies.

Finally, the concept supports the council’s declaration of a climate emergency through carbon absorption, rainwater management, reuse of materials and the selection of trees based on their air cleaning capabilities.

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