Home sweet home as Leeds enjoys city living boom

Phoebe Dixon and Matt Shields at their home in City Island.
Phoebe Dixon and Matt Shields at their home in City Island.
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New figures today confirmed Leeds’s place at the forefront of the country’s young generation city living boom.

The population of our thriving city centre more than doubled between 2001 and 2011, despite the numbing impact of the credit crunch on the area’s flats construction drive.

The number of people aged 20 to 29 living in the middle of Leeds nearly trebled during the same period.

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That age group is now estimated to account for around HALF of the city centre’s residents.

And experts today said they hoped the figures would help finally debunk the myth that Leeds is the empty flats capital of the North.

Jonathan Morgan, from Leeds-based property sales and rentals business Morgans, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “That label could have been given to any city but unfortunately it ended up coming our way.

“It was never true. We have been here for 18 years and we have never been less than 95 per cent occupied.”

Today’s figures are contained in a report put together by the respected Centre for Cities think tank.

They show that Leeds city centre’s population rose from 12,265 in 2001 to 26,020 a decade later.

The number of 20-to-29-year-olds, meanwhile, soared from 4,756 to 13,187 – an eye-watering increase of 177 per cent.

City dwellers are more likely to be well-educated single professionals or students, according to the Centre for Cities report.

Across England and Wales, the population of large city centres more than doubled in the 10 years to 2011.

Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones said: “There’s been a lot of debate in recent years about the future of our high streets, but this report shows we need to look at city centres as places where people increasingly want to live and work, as well as being somewhere to shop.

“That has serious implications for any decisions about where to build houses, develop transport links and base public services and amenities.

“Policy-makers can’t take this resurgence for granted – it needs to be supported and sustained. For example, building more houses in city centres will help deal with issues like over-crowding and rising house prices, which could put potential residents off if left unaddressed.”

Phoebe Dixon and Matt Shields moved into their fourth-floor flat at Leeds’s City Island development in February.

Matt, 25, had been a city centre dweller for nearly three years but for 24-year-old Phoebe the switch was a complete change of scene.

She previously lived in Huddersfield’s rural Skelmanthorpe area, meaning she often faced a commute of an hour to Stickyeyes, the digital marketing agency on Wellington Street, Leeds, where the couple both work.

Now the journey to the office takes five minutes on foot – and that’s not the only upside to city living for these two twentysomethings.

Phoebe said: “City Island is great because it’s city centre living and all the shops and bars that come with that, but at the same time, it’s not in the very centre of town so you don’t have to put up with the busy nightlife literally on your doorstep!”

Phoebe and Matt’s flat costs them £700 per month in rent. For their money they get two bedrooms, two bathrooms and an open plan living room and kitchen.

They acknowledge they could have found somewhere bigger for the same outlay if they had moved to the suburbs but it wasn’t an option they considered.

Phoebe said: “We didn’t look any more than a mile out of the middle of Leeds. There are times when I do miss the green space you get in the countryside but overall the pluses here definitely outweigh the minuses.”