Street café culture in Leeds given a boost as ‘rat run’ closes

Picture caption: traffic using the Merrion Street (East) rat run

A new space for street cafes is set to transform Merrion Street (East), home to a popular cluster of cafes and bars, as it closes to traffic using the street as a rat run.

The council and local businesses have worked together to pave the way for street cafes and a pedestrian area.

The narrow one-way street connects New Briggate with Vicar Lane and is used by drivers who see it as a shortcut, however, vehicles can stack up and the narrowness of the street adds to the risk of pedestrian injury and accidents, particularly in the evenings and at night.

The closure will help regenerate the ‘Grand Quarter’ area, surrounding the Grand Theatre and Grand Arcade, to create a village feel.

Leeds City Council has agreed to invest £48,000 to fund the works including re-lining existing road markings to remove a traffic lane, install a raised crossing and improved signage. Owners of some of the businesses on Merrion Street (East) have also clubbed together to contribute £7,000.

The funding will be used to close the street to traffic except for servicing between 5am and 11am, seven days a week (no general traffic will be allowed). Work will start in June 2014 and be completed in July 2014. The closure will be in place for an initial 12 months trial period to be extended if the scheme proves successful.

The street is home to a cluster of bars including Mojo, Reform, Verve and the Pit. It is hoped that the street closure will help attract businesses into the empty units along the street.

Once the street is closed, the businesses may apply for street café licences from the council to put tables and chairs out on to the street creating added vibrancy.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for development and economy, Councillor Richard Lewis, said:

“This simple scheme will make such a positive impact in the drive to regenerate the ‘Grand Quarter’ area of the city centre. We’ve worked hard with the owners of businesses in the area to make sure the scheme works well for them and hope to have it up and running in the summer.”

“Our investment and street café opportunities will help boost this vibrant evening destination, providing a safe village environment for all visitors, both day and night. It will also see improved connectivity to the Arena Quarter and the Victoria Gate development.”

Leeds City Council’s Highways and Transportation Service are supportive of a road closure and have confirmed that the small amount of displaced traffic can be accommodated on the surrounding highway network.


For media enquiries, please contact;

Laura Ferris, Leeds City Council communications team (0113) 247 5472

Email: laura.ferris@leeds.gov.uk