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Green light for Leeds Corn Exchange public realm enhancement

Mark Moran
12 February 2021
The planned enhancements for urban realm around the Corn Exchange
The planned enhancements for urban realm around the Corn Exchange


Leeds City Council has approved funding to improve public realm outside the historic Corn Exchange building.

The transformation will see street trees planted creating welcome green space and shelter for wildlife in the heart of the city. There will be safe routes through for cyclists, and crossing points designed to assist pedestrians, in particular those with disabilities, to navigate through the space safely.

The council’s executive board has approved funding to improve the area directly outside the Corn Exchange.

In September 2020, Leeds City Council successfully secured £8.6m of match funding from the government’s Getting Building Fund that would be added to Leeds’ £12.2m Grey to Green programme. The money was specifically allocated to support the delivery of “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects to boost economic growth, and fuel local recovery and jobs.

Under the principles outlined in the Our Spaces strategy (which sets out a vision for the creation of world class, public realm and green space within the city centre of Leeds), four key areas were identified which would most benefit from this funding.

The first of these areas, which was approved by the executive board, focuses on improving the public realm outside the Corn Exchange.

The Corn Exchange building is impacted by its surroundings; dissected by road infrastructure, with excess street clutter ruining the quality of the streetscape and very little in the way of greenery. The setting is not befitting of an iconic building, or the position this space occupies as a key gateway to the city centre, which is central to a vibrant and independent retail, food, drink and day-time and nightlife offer.

Construction will be carried out by John Sisk & Son and is set to start in May 2021. It will run alongside the ongoing gateway scheme that is being carried out by Connecting Leeds.

Leeds City Council is also set to enter into a lease with the Corn Exchange and its owners Rushbond in a bid to create a new ‘Pavilion-like’ area in the public space outside the building that is proposed to be used for outdoor functions, shops and cafes. This is subject to further planning approvals.

Rushbond have recognised the significant benefits that the public realm development will offer the Corn Exchange and have worked proactively with the Council to develop the proposals. To support this they are proposing a significant capital injection of funding into the scheme. 

This public realm improvement compliments a further three green-to-grey projects that are:

  • Meadow Lane green space - a gateway to the City Park
  • Sovereign Square footbridge
  • Crown Point Road reconfiguration and greening

When combined, these four inter-related schemes will make Leeds City Centre cleaner and greener; helping to unlock major commercial and residential development across the centre of Leeds, as well as the delivery of private sector investment into the new City Park; the largest new city centre green space in the region, and making the city much more welcoming and attractive to those walking, cycling, using mobility scooters and everyone travelling by bus.

Cllr Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for climate change, transport and sustainable development, said: “The Corn Exchange is a Grade 1 listed, iconic Leeds landmark that is widely recognised as one of the most beautiful buildings in our city.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the Corn Exchange to be re-anchored in to a welcoming, greener public open space guided by the ‘Our Spaces Strategy’.

“The proposed Corn Exchange Pavilion, which will require planning permission to take forward, will add public amenity to the space transforming it into a place for residents and visitors of all ages in the city to meet.”

Dave Hill, regional director at John Sisk & Son said: “The public realm will further enhance the Corn Exchange and will be enjoyed by residents and visitors to Leeds for many years.”

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