Andrew Cooper column: Leeds - a vibrant, safe and welcoming city centre for all

The Victoria Gate shopping centre in Leeds.
The Victoria Gate shopping centre in Leeds.
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I was recently invited to show an investor around the city, someone who had not been to Leeds for many years. On meeting them at the train station, I began my new role as tour guide and ambassador.

The immediate response from most people is their reaction to the scale of change that has happened in the city since they last visited and the visible difference right in front of them with a multitude of cranes and development hoardings.

Immediately coming out the train station I was able to chat through the work that is underway to make Leeds Station fit for purpose with a new platform, new roof and improved entrance around New Station Street.

Exiting out of the north concourse one is confronted with the iconic Majestic building which is undergoing a £40m transformation and opening later this year.

Then heading on through two international award-winning shopping centres, Trinity and Victoria, the depth of offer, combining chains and independents, makes Leeds a compelling place to shop, do business, eat and live.

My guest at this part was taken aback, not realising that their preconceived ideas of Leeds were 20 years out of date and the city had moved on at a relentless pace.

The final part of the tour took my visitor into Quarry Hill, with new cycle lanes and public realm work underway, a playhouse that is being redeveloped to face the city and the spectacular new college campus as well as SoYo residential development – this area is thriving.

Sometimes when we take the same route every day, we don’t always look up, and maybe don’t totally absorb or are conscious of the development and transformation that is happening around us. My visitor was impressed.

As residents, businesses and city centre users, we should be impressed at the transformation that is taking place right now in Leeds. LeedsBID has been part of the transformational story; an organisation formed in 2015 which is business-led and non-political and is focused on the ambition to see continuous improvement in the city centre.

The city centre is the economic engine on which the region relies, and Leeds’ is a welcoming one with opportunities and is inclusive for all.

LeedsBID has invested £10m since 2015 on initiatives and projects to support this transformation; from iconic murals to bowler hatted ambassadors on the streets; from attracting new events to the city to supporting and growing existing ones; and creating collaborative projects such as Ambition:Leeds (ambitionleeds.co.uk) which brings business and education together to support and develop jobs and opportunities in Leeds.

The person I took on the tour came back to Leeds, so as you can imagine I was pleased. As a city we have an amazing story to tell as we transform the city together.

Andrew Cooper is Chief Executive of LeedsBID (Business Improvement District).