A force to be reckoned with

Source: PSE Oct/Nov 2018

The South Bank plan, which refers to a number of investments and proposed activities across a massive plot of land south of the River Aire, is one of Europe’s largest city-centre regeneration initiatives. Cllr Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, looks ahead at what’s in store.

Leeds is a city with enormous ambition and potential, and we have both the vision and determination to fulfil that promise as we continue to grow as a Northern Powerhouse force to be reckoned with.

We’re not just ambitious for the city, but also for our people, our businesses and visitors. Everything we aspire to is firmly underpinned by an unshakeable commitment to inclusive growth. For a city to fully flourish, it needs not only the key economic indicators like business growth and the right infrastructure; its people and places need to be sharing its success.

South Bank Leeds is a great example of how we’ve applied that approach to one of the most significant developments the city has seen in recent decades. The breadth and scale of our ambition is such that it will effectively double the size of our thriving, vibrant city centre.

We are harnessing the potential of the advent of HS2 into Leeds to further drive the development of the underused former industrial area south of our classic rail station. Its regeneration has long been a key city priority, first outlined in the South Bank Planning Statement back in 2011. Seven years on and that vision has matured considerably.

City-wide collaboration has evolved into a co-produced, shared vision that became the draft South Bank Leeds Framework Plan. This was created to provide clear guidance for the future development of the South Bank and to establish principles to drive the area’s growth. In July 2018 this was adopted into a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) providing detailed proposals for regeneration in the 253-hectare area and showcasing the city’s ambition.

The South Bank’s regeneration will double not only the size of Leeds city centre but also its economic impact. It will establish a distinctive mixed-use district creating over 35,000 jobs and more than 8,000 homes. As one of the largest city-centre regeneration initiatives in Europe, it will power the growth of Leeds and its neighbouring areas for the coming decades, cementing the city’s role as the UK’s fastest-growing city and a leading driver of the region’s and nation’s economy.

Leeds City Council has been working with stakeholders across the South Bank to inspire and enable inclusive growth, high-quality placemaking, and the delivery of homes and jobs. Our partners are a diverse group who are invested in the success of Leeds. They include major landowners looking to bring development forward, potential investors, educational partners like Leeds College of Building and the University Technical College, along with key occupiers such as Duke Studios in Sheaf Street, tenants at the Round Foundry, Marshall Mill and the Tower Works estate, and many independent operators.

From the drawing board to reality

We’re now stepping up the gears from planning and scoping to delivering those transformational projects. Over the next two years, delivery and implementation will begin gaining pace for a wide range of infrastructure projects in the area, building on recent successes such as the Flood Alleviation Scheme, Leeds station’s southern entrance, and the emergence of a new educational district in the area.

One of the landmark big ideas of the SPD is now moving towards becoming reality: the longstanding ambition to breathe fresh air into the heart of Leeds with a new green city-centre park. This was also revealed as the public’s number-one priority in the 2016 consultation. It will be located at the former Tetley Brewery site, where a developer plans to bring new homes, businesses and significant green space together on the sprawling prime location. They are proposing a mixed-use development including 850 residential units and a wide range of office and commercial use – all surrounded by 3.5 hectares of public parkland.

This sits alongside the city’s up-and-coming waterfront, which is integral to our South Bank plans and has in recent years developed as an increasingly popular residential, business and leisure location. Leeds City Council has recently approved the Waterfront Enhancement Fund of up to £100,000, offering grants for activities to further enhance the area by making it more accessible and attractive.

We are aiming to further accelerate growth in the city centre and surrounding corridors, including the South Bank, through bidding under the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund. This would enable the council to deliver imaginative highways and public realm improvements and enhance connectivity to unlock the potential of existing city-centre housing and investments.

In the past year construction has started on site at a number of schemes, including Citu’s Climate Innovation District, Legal & General’s Mustard Wharf, and Dandara Living’s Leodis Square scheme, which will together provide more than 1,500 new homes within the area. Recent planning application approvals will bring a further 928 residential units and £210m in investment.

Never complacent

Leeds’s economy is performing well, with above-national-average private sector jobs since 2010 and one of the highest rates of business start-ups and scale-ups of UK cities. We are a smart city with a high proportion of knowledge-intensive jobs and an increasingly strong digital sector. The University of Leeds spins out more listed companies than any other UK university, and the city experiences a “brain gain” with more undergraduates and graduates moving into the city than leaving.

Leeds is also a top-five UK retail and tourism destination and has an impressive cultural arts and sporting offer, along with a strong track record of hosting major events such as the Tour de France Grand Départ.

And we’re not standing still – we continue to grow and develop and build on these sound foundations and opportunities such as HS2.

We see beyond getting a faster service with greater capacity from Leeds to London via Birmingham. Our HS2 Growth Strategy explains how we will work with our partners to unleash its transformative potential of up to £54bn growth and 300,000 jobs for the region’s economy. Improving and expanding Leeds station is imperative to ensure HS2 is integrated seamlessly with other rail services to create new rail capacity to support local growth and to provide a high-quality gateway to, and catalyst for, regeneration in the city.

Our focus now is on sustained intense activity to get the right infrastructure in place and ensure that Leeds, our people, and everyone who does business with us is HS2-ready to capitalise on this once-in-a-generation opportunity.


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