Mark Henderson

22nd February 2021

Green light shines down on historic Leeds Church

Planning permission has been granted to redevelop St Mary’s Church in Richmond Hill, near Leeds city centre, into a striking new residential development that will see the original Grade II* listed building restored to its former glory, alongside a new extension, which will be built within its grounds.

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The scheme has been designed by Leeds based Brewster Bye Architects on behalf of developers, Estate Aid Ltd and MSM (Leeds) Ltd. St Mary’s Church opened in 1851 but has sat empty for more than 30 years after it closed in 1989.

Leeds City Council’s North and East Plans Panel have now approved the planning application, which will see it transformed into 175 one, two and three bedroom apartments. The plans were produced in consultation with Historic England, Civic Trust and Leeds City Council’s conservation department.

The development site will now be marketed for sale for offers over £2.85m by Linley & Simpson. Jeremy Sokel, from Estate Aid, said: “We are confident that a buyer will take this exciting scheme forward now that planning has been secured. The design is simply stunning and the location extremely attractive.”

The nave and aisles of the church will be removed to make way for a new extension and the chancel, transept areas and altars will be retained and restored. The church, and its proposed extension, will contain 62 apartments and the existing presbytery will be demolished and replaced with a five-storey building consisting of 113 apartments. There will also be 152 cycle and 56 car parking spaces.

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Once complete, the scheme will connect to Leeds city centre, linking the Saxton Gardens development and more recent residential schemes on Marsh Lane and Richmond Hill.

Mark Henderson, director at Brewster Bye, said: “Securing planning permission for this scheme is fantastic news for both East Leeds as a whole and St Mary’s Church. It is a beautiful and historic building, but over the last 30 years it had become an ugly symbol of degeneration in this part of the city, with parts of the structure held up by scaffolding.

“Our proposals retain all the most important elements of the original church building and the sympathetic, yet striking extension help to make the development viable. It now has the potential to become a key landmark once again on the city’s skyline that both its new residents and the local area can be proud of.”

Jonathan Morgan, from Linley & Simpson, said: “This part new-build, part refurbishment development project is close to the award-winning Climate Innovation District by Citu, and the highly successful Saxton residential scheme, by Urban Splash. Its elevated position, one mile to the east of Leeds Railway Station, and innovative design will make it a truly remarkable and attractive place to live.

“Interested buyers may also be able to access some public funding and vacant building credit is also available, and with detailed planning permission now granted, work can start on site immediately.”

A report published ahead of the planning meeting said: “It is considered that the applicant has provided robust justification for the works as proposed in terms of both the demolition of the grade ll-listed presbytery and the partial demolition and extension of the grade ll*-listed Mount St Marys Church, which are required in order to preserve as much of possible of an iconic building on the Leeds skyline, while ensuring that the site can benefit from some form of sustainable and viable use going forward in the long-term.

“The proposal will allow for the retention of the most important elements of one of Leeds's grade ll*-listed heritage assets, as well as redeveloping an allocated brownfield housing site, providing 175 new residential units, reinstating a blocked public right of way and positively impacting the character of the wider area.

“It is considered that the benefits strongly outweigh any harm created and any adverse impacts of the scheme.”