Aisha Iqbal: Will ‘Whitehall of the North’ bring Leeds some real gains - and not just London price tags?

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Welcome news this week that the Government is shifting 6,000 civil service jobs to a new city centre development, in what a being billed as the biggest ever commercial property letting deal in Leeds’s history.

The project has already been dubbed the ‘Whitehall of the North’ by keen observers.

There’s no doubt that this is a huge shot in the arm for Leeds’s commercial sector, and for this part of the city centre especially, which has also gained the ‘Leeds’s West End’ tag in some quarters.

But I’m loathe to start spouting superlatives too early. I’d like those London comparisons to bring us some capital gains, and not just capital price tags.

The YEP’s own offices are based just yards from the Wellington Place development where the new Government Hub will sit.

And over the past five years, as we have watched a plethora of shiny new buildings spring up around us, my colleagues and I have also been frustrated.

Parking is already at a premium in this part of town, and 6,000 more workers means, potentially, 6,000 more cars.

News of the development makes the realisation of the city’s public transport growth vision even more urgent. It also sounds an - as yet distant - alarm bell about impact on existing businesses and commercial rents. Time will tell.

The key words to watch are those that came from the Government’s own spokesman, who said the development would be a “catalyst for regional growth”.

We don’t want this to public sector behemoth to be about red tape and paper mountains.

It should be a genuine hub designed to engage and empower local people - and to bring lasting benefits for our city and our region.

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