The Yorkshire Evening Post has joined forces with Leeds City Council to launch a celebration of our city. Today we highlight a city that is creating a bright business future
THERE is something in the air in Leeds right now – take a breath and you can smell it. It’s called optimism.
After the battering taken by the city five years ago, when businesses crashed and burned all around, the sturdy green shoots of recovery have taken hold.
There is confidence, a spring in the step of the business sector, as it strides into a brighter future for the city.
There are several key elements, all coming together to make Leeds proud.
The trolleybus is one factor – give a city a decent infrastructure and business will benefit. Just this month the green light was given to a £250m electric trolleybus scheme – and the news electrified the city.
Civic leaders hailed it as “the first step to a 21st century transport system” and the news ended many years of pain for the city.
At Leeds Bradford airport it has been a summer of announcements. British Airways has returned to the airport and the news means that Yorkshire is connected to the mainstream of global economic growth, according to the airport’s chief executive John Parkin.
He said: “If people in China and India want to do business here, they have to be able to get here.”
Other airlines are showing more interest in Leeds Bradford too, with Jet2 expanding its destinations from the airport to include Zante and Montenegro.
Other transport good news for the city includes the announcement, also this month, that millions of pounds will be invested by the Government in rail travel to improve services and journey times between Leeds and its northern neighbours, and Leeds and London.
In Leeds itself the retail sector is going stellar, bringing jobs and cash into the city.
John Lewis has announced it will definitely be opening in the city, forming the keystone of the Eastgate development around the market, and the Trinity shopping centre between Boar Lane and Briggate is almost complete and due to open in the spring. Already its dramatic roofline is becoming a landmark of the city.
And then there is the west end development. This involves the regeneration of the area between the railway station, Wellington Street and the inner ring road. It was one of the plans that faltered, but a fresh scheme has been submitted by MEPC, which brings the idea alive again.
And life is exactly what is being breathed into the Leeds economy once more.
A massively important part of that is the Aire Valley scheme, which is being earmarked as one of the most significant areas of investment opportunity in the North.
The huge swathe of brownfield land extends from the southern city centre out through Stourton and Cross Green through to the M1 east of the city, and includes landmarks such as the Royal Armouries and Clarence Dock.
It will be home to an enterprise zone currently being developed by the Leeds City Region Partnership, a collaboration between 11 local authorities with Leeds at its centre, which will see the creation of thousands of new jobs and eco homes.
Clarence Dock is being revived by Allied London with a scheme involving shops, cafes, bars and “workspace hubs” to make it the standout part of a stunning city over the coming years.
The last word should go to the leader of Leeds City Council, Coun Keith Wakefield: “The Aire Valley in Leeds will not just be the economic engine of the city in the future but the region as a whole.
“The biggest opportunity for jobs and growth is here and we are concentrating on getting the infrastructure in.
“When you look at the prospect of the thousands of new jobs and homes that will be created there it shows just how ambitious we are to keep Leeds moving forward.”