Leeds – a city of opportunity | Deloitte UK has been saved
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The skyline of Leeds city centre continues to develop at pace and I think this will continue during 2022 with another strong year anticipated for construction. Our recently published Deloitte Leeds Crane Survey showed that 2021 has been a record-breaking year for construction in the city with ten new residential developments and the highest amount of education space delivered in a single year.
There’s also been a sustained level of activity in the office sector and the volume of office floorspace under construction is more than double compared to 2020. This level of construction reflects the high levels of letting and sales activity in the office market in Leeds during 2021. Given the strong demand, office development must continue to respond to take-up by occupiers as companies look for high quality accommodation. Its good timing that office growth in the South Bank is gaining momentum through CEG and Vastint that will deliver around 900,000 sq ft of employment floorspace as part of Phase 1. In addition to offices, a mix of residential properties contributes to the delivery of a desirable, greener, connected city centre that supports the growing city centre population, strengthening the creation of new neighbourhoods and mixed communities.
Progress continues on the region’s Mass Transit System which will create a more accessible and inclusive transport system for Leeds and the city region. The programme will deliver an integrated network of walking, cycling, bus, rail and mass transit routes. I expect there will be further investment within Leeds for transport and connectivity to create more links between the city core and the South Bank.
Leeds Innovation District is helping to foster an ecosystem of knowledge intensive industries around its institutional anchors of the NHS Trust and the city’s main universities. Redevelopment of Leeds General Infirmary will create a fantastic real estate opportunity that will support and enhance the role of the area as an innovation hub for the city region.
Following valuable contributions by LeedsBID in 2021 to bring vibrancy and footfall back into the city centre, Leeds has so much to look forward to with the Year of Culture 2023, which will create a range of experiences and events across the city that will enrich the city spaces and lives of Leeds residents and visitors.
The much anticipated Levelling Up White Paper has been a long time in the making but the process of implementing the policies and ideas will be a much greater and long term challenge. The delivery of Levelling Up requires a range of stakeholders on the ground with the ideas, capacity and expertise. It’s assumed that Local Government will co-ordinate this but they have their own significant challenges of keeping essential services running. In reality the private sector is critical and this is where the construction industry can contribute and add value. Private businesses will need to be active participants at the table from the outset, with local government facilitating and coordinating efforts. As well as the private sector there is also a case for other institutions such as universities/education providers, health care providers and business organisations, to join the effort and support and work in partnership with local government and the private sector to deliver.
In 2021 it was announced that the new government-owned policy bank, the UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB), will open its head office in Leeds city centre. This represents a key move in raising the profile of the city as a financial hub, whilst delivering new jobs to the city. The presence of UKIB in Leeds is expected to create valuable opportunities for collaboration with Leeds-based businesses. This move adheres to the wider government decision to ensure that policy makers are located within the communities they serve, whilst ensuring that economic growth and job opportunities are more evenly distributed across the UK.
These various schemes and programmes in Leeds will address connectivity and transport challenges whilst helping to fulfil the city’s growth ambitions and its aim to become carbon neutral by 2030. In doing this the various public realm, transport and connectivity enhancements are set to deliver a more well-connected and accessible city which in turn creates opportunities for residents and businesses. 2021 was a good year for Leeds in terms of development activity and this looks set to continue for a number of years to come.
Nolan is a director and head of our real estate practice based in Leeds. Nolan is a Qualified town planner and member of the Royal Town Planning Institute with 20 years’ experience, primarily in private sector consultancy. He specialises in strategic land promotion and large scale planning applications for residential development.