City Region is on the cusp of a real transformation

I’m writing this month’s column following a highly successful attendance at MIPIM UK, the UK’s leading national property and development conference, by Leeds City Region.

Our attendance at this high profile conference focused on highlighting the region’s recent investment successes and the opportunities available to the influential global audience of investors and developers in attendance.

I was pleased to stand shoulder to shoulder with public sector partners and the City Region’s private sector sponsors to showcase the public private partnership approach which has been commended by both business and Government. Together we were all able to emphasise how the City Region is already delivering significant returns to investors, continuing to attract major occupiers with brands such as Burberry and Sky continuing to grow their presence in the region; and that now is the time to become part of our story.

The conference also provided the region with an opportunity to highlight the impact high speed rail will have upon the people who live here, its businesses and the economy; and our plans to capitalise upon this once in a lifetime investment. This was reinforced by the news from Leeds City Council regarding the plans to remodel Leeds Station and from the University of Leeds on its £10m investment into the UK’s first dedicated centre for high speed rail technologies and system integration. Alongside these announcements the City Region also showcased the current vision for York Central and highlighted the opportunities at the second phase of Enterprise Zones which launched in April 2017 in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.

I was privileged to sit on a panel looking at the attractiveness of the UK to investors, and I was delighted that Sir Richard Leese from Manchester, and I were able to focus on the important role the North will play in a post-Brexit UK economy. It’s clear that the Northern Powerhouse is continuing to garner global attention from businesses looking to relocate and investors looking to achieve an excellent return on their investment.

Speaking of businesses looking to relocate, MIPIM UK also provided us with an opportunity to reflect upon our region’s successes, particularly with regards to attracting investment from digital businesses. However I was pleased to see the focus firmly set on how we continue this trend and ensure our next phase of developments can meet the needs of this new type of occupier. Therefore it was fantastic that the first building at CEG’s Kirkstall Forge development, No.1 Kirkstall Forge, awarded Wired Platinum certification - a trusted benchmark for technological capacity and infrastructure resilience and connectivity.

This award, positions No.1 Kirkstall Forge on the same level as The Leadenhall Building and The Empire State Building for its digital infrastructure. In fact this award has come at a time when our City Region’ is attracting significant attention from international digital businesses looking to grow or expand into the UK. In the last 12 months alone we've seen global digital media company Perform Group expand in Leeds and digital marketing agency Fractl select the city for its first international office and we must ensure we keep up this momentum.

It was also wonderful to see during MIPIM UK how investments made by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority are continuing to create new opportunities. In fact the announcement on 18 October that work is underway on Leeds College of Building’s new campus in the South Bank area of Leeds alongside the opening of the Northern Dental Education Centre in Bradford are testimony to our commitment to create a place of opportunity, where students are given access to high quality Further Education facilities and the best possible start to their careers.

It is the region’s ambition to provide opportunities for our young and dynamic population which led us to launch the #4Sparks campaign to attract the relocation of Channel 4 from London to the City Region. I firmly believe the region is on the cusp of a real transformation and Channel 4 are the spark, the opportunity that could lead that revolution. We’re fully committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with Channel 4 to offer a full package of support to de-risk the process of relocation. As we highlighted at MIPIM UK to investors, developers and occupiers we offer a unique location, and particularly to those engaged in digital media we have the creative talent, diversity of voices and critical mass of digital platform developers to support commercial success.

Finally I’d like to say a thank you to all of the City Region’s private sector sponsors, without which our MIPIM UK presence would not be possible; Caddick Developments, CEG, Munroe K, Scarborough International Properties, Town Centre Securities, University of Huddersfield, University of Leeds, Citu, Extra MSA, GVA, Shulmans, Addleshaw Goddard, Keepmoat, Morgans, Muse, NJL Consulting and Sweco.

#4Sparks Leeds City Region

The next generation of young and diverse content makers from Leeds City Region have come together to give their support to the #4Sparks campaign and express how by heading to Yorkshire and engaging with new voices and talent, Channel 4 could spark a revolution in the creative and screen industries.

Maariah Hussain, Bradford-based actor in Channel 4’s hit school-drama Ackley Bridge, said: “It’s great to be part of #4Sparks because I’m really excited about the potential for Channel 4 moving here. I’m proud to be part of a group of young, creative people from Bradford, York, Huddersfield and Leeds coming together to show how inspirational a Channel 4 presence would be.”