PLANS to create a Tech City of the North are moving forward as negotiations reach a critical stage.
It is understood that key stakeholders, including Leeds and Partners, are thrashing out a business agreement which would see the launch of new offices for digital and creative industries at New Dock in Leeds.
A planning application for the first element of the tech hub is about to be submitted to Leeds City Council.
The creation of a new digital complex is part of plans to build a “super cluster” of Tech Cities in Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester to re-create the success of Tech City in the Shoreditch area of London, which was launched in 2010 and has seen the number of businesses in the area grow to more than 1,000.
The move is aimed at revitalising the struggling Clarence Dock area but is also part of a wider vision which will extend across the city centre, particularly along the South Bank area.
The £250m waterfront site was bought by property company Allied London at the start of 2012 and re-branded as New Dock.
It is understood a new company has been set up to drive the plans forward.
A spokeswoman from Leeds and Partners confirmed it was working with Allied London and other stakeholders on plans. She said: “Creating a tech and innovation site is a key part of our innovation strategy and vision for the city as well as for attracting inward investment.”
Lee Strafford, one of Yorkshire’s leading tech entrepreneurs, is spearheading plans for the northern tech cities. He said : “Shoreditch works because it is commercially driven.”
He added: “The reality is that where there is a critical mass of entrepreneurs and digital and creative people, you can create a Tech City-like cluster.
“What is without question is the need to retain this talent in the North. The question isn’t whether can it happen; the question is how big can it be? It is hugely important to create that same model up here.”
Mr Strafford, co-founder of Sheffield-based internet service provider Plusnet, described current negotiations between key stakeholders at New Dock as “sensitive” and declined to give further details about the plans for the site.