Students could be at risk if the proposed building of new university accommodation in a “grotty” part of Leeds city centre goes ahead, it’s been claimed.
Developers Breslin Properties want to demolish former nightclub Stinky’s Peep House, on York Street, and replace it with a 10-storey student flats block.
Councillors have welcomed the idea in principle, although no formal planning application has been submitted yet.
But at a discussion about the early proposals at a planning meeting on Thursday, a number of Labour members flagged concerns about the potential risk to students walking back to the block at night.
Councillor Peter Carlill said the area, on the eastern side of the city centre, was “not one I’d walk around at night”.
His colleague Councillor Al Garthwaite went further, saying: “It’s a grotty area, and it attracts ne’er-do-wells. It’s exactly the sort of place people will lurk.
“Young students coming to the inner city for the first time are quite at risk and vulnerable.
“It will become a magnet for ne’er do wells to predate, exploit and do whatever it is they do.”
Both members asked for reassurance about how the area might be improved in ahead of the plans potentially bearing fruit.
Representatives of the developers said that the outside of the building itself would be under surveillance, but pointed out that a medical centre and Northern Ballet are located close by.
They also suggested the plans could be a “starting point” for improving the area and warned against “writing off the whole area as unsafe”.
In 2019, the council granted planning permission for a backpackers’ hostel on the site, but that consent has expired without any work having taken place.
Conservative councillor Dan Cohen took issue with Cllr Garthwaite’s comments.
He said: “I’m rather troubled by what’s been said, because it’s not the developers’ place to sanitise a local area.
“I’m somewhat concerned that administration councillors are saying, ‘We’ve got a no go area’ and as a result we’re worried about putting students there. It’s the council’s job to make an area safe.
“I don’t like the phrase ‘ne’er do wells; in any event.
“A lot of young people will change the nature of an area, just by virtue of being there.”
Stinky’s Peep House was one of Leeds’ most popular nightspots during the 2000s, but the venue has been closed for nearly a decade.