Leeds: Rejoice in our pioneering spirit

Phil Thwaite
There’s a lot to celebrate here. Great access to regional and national markets, excellent value-for-money office space, and universities that attract high-calibre students from across the world.

In an emotive love letter to Channel 4, The All In. Leeds partnership, backed by 50 creative agencies, invited the relocating broadcaster to rejoice in Leeds’ pioneering spirit. It’s a timely shout-out from a city that’s no longer in Manchester’s more mature shadow, but is poised to unleash the full strength of its ambition and potential.

The letter may have clinched the deal, as Channel 4 will begin its relocation to Leeds later this year, with the new headquarters and studio expected to be fully operational by 2023. There’s more to come—HMRC is on its way to a new regional hub at Wellington Place in the city centre, with NHS Digital moving in alongside.

These are great examples of the way Leeds is positioning itself as a prime setting for business investment and expansion. There’s room for opportunity here, both conceptually and spatially. The scale and diversity of the economy—centring on financial, legal and professional business services, a vibrant visitor and leisure economy, plus expertise in healthcare technologies and high value manufacturing—are key strengths.

The built environment plays a pivotal role, with a healthy market generating 21 new construction starts in 2018[1]. Seven are office schemes, adding to the record 844,986 sq ft office development pipeline. In residential development, a further 533 units are under way, totaling 2,119 under construction. Five of the developments are the city’s first purpose-built Build-to-Rent units.

Leeds City Council is working with developers to facilitate major growth in the city centre, with the regeneration of Leeds South Bank, one of the largest city centre regeneration sites in Europe. Leeds ambition is to create 36,000 additional jobs and £3.7bn of investment by 2036. Collaboration between the public and private sectors is consequently at the heart of the major regeneration and development of the wider city region. These partnerships can be seen in initiatives focused on reinvigorating neighbouring towns and districts across the region. Schemes like the £180m transformation of Barnsley town centre with the redevelopment of the markets and the new Glassworks development and the proposed regeneration of Huddersfield waterfront by SKA developments. 

The Northern Powerhouse strategy remains important. Improved connectivity through investment in physical transport links is critical if the city region is to maintain its competitiveness as a business location.

HS2 is important, but is only one element of what’s needed here and it is critical that HS2 is integrated with Northern Powerhouse Rail to provide high speed connectivity across the North. Leeds Station is central to this. It is a major hub in this network with over 28 million passengers passing through the station every year, making it the busiest station in the North.

Leeds City Council want to be HS2 ready, but they are certainly not hanging around waiting for it to happen. They are already pressing ahead with the ‘connecting Leeds’ transport strategy and the necessary infrastructure investment required to facilitate the Leeds Integrated Station Masterplan, which SNC Lavalin’s Atkins and Faithful+Gould businesses are heavily involved in. This project will create a new world class arrival point into the city and be a catalyst for regeneration of the South Bank.

There are plans for three new stations across the city at Thorpe Park, White Rose shopping centre and office park, and Leeds Bradford airport. These stations follow on from the new station at Kirkstall Forge, which opened in 2016 and has paved the way for the second office phase and the residential phases to come forward on this exciting development, from CEG, creating a neighbourhood, just 6 minutes from the city centre. The new stations will help transform transport and connectivity across the city and wider region.

Significant projects are on site or coming to market. A £40m scheme is breathing new life into the fire-damaged Majestic building in City Square, with contemporary workspace to be created behind the historic building’s original exterior. Plans to redevelop LGI Children’s Hospital are moving forwards, as is the development of the Iconic Tetley Brewery site by Vastint, which will create 850 new homes, two hotels, 85,000m2 and a city park which will cover a minimum of 2ha of the site.

There is a lot to be excited about and Faithful+Gould is committed to the transformation of this wonderful city and the wider region. We are investing heavily once again in our apprenticeship programme, as well as working with clients such as CEG in supporting their own training programmes. We have recently appointed Phil Davies, Regional Director to lead the Property sector in Leeds, which further strengthens the region’s Property team and supports the ongoing success of our Leeds City Region strategy.

We are already working on some notable projects, many of which are part of Leeds’ rich heritage. Temple Mill, the Grade I listed former flax mill on the South bank, once known as the biggest room in the world, is an ongoing appointment with developer CEG. We have also been appointed to provide cost and project management services on the mixed use development of the Tower Works site on Globe road, with its three listed Italianate towers, by Richardson Capital.

Our public sector work in the city includes the refurbishment of the Department of Health & Social Care offices at Quarry House, our involvement in the Leeds Integrated Station Masterplan and work on the new Creative Arts building for Leeds Beckett University.

These exciting projects are part of our integrated presence across the Leeds City Region, with expertise and experience in Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, and the wider Northern Powerhouse.


[1] Leeds Crane Survey 2019, Deloitte.

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