'˜New conference centre will really put Leeds on the map'

Leeds will be pushing for its own conference centre in a bid to put the city more firmly on the map, the council's chief executive has said.

Tom Riordan said “the time is right” to consider a conference and exhibition facility.

“We need more people to see the city,” he said.

“There are two ways to do that: a conference centre or great big tourist attraction. These are two things we will be going for in the years ahead.”

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Mr Riordan was speaking at the Built Environment Networking conference held in the city.

He told delegates that Leeds was “very mindful of not cannibalising Harrogate”, which has Yorkshire’s biggest conference centre.

Mr Riordan stressed Leeds was seeking to create a conference centre that would be “digitally enhanced and an extremely state of the art” facility.

He added that the new facility would “not necessarily” be developed in the city’s South Bank regeneration area.

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Beyond the city centre, he highlighted plans to build a new train station to serve Leeds Bradford Airport, which could act as focal point for a park and ride facility in the future.

He also expressed his frustration over West Yorkshire’s ongoing devolution deadlock with the Government.

Speaking amid wider discussion of development plans across Leeds and West Yorkshire, Mr Riordan said: “Devolution is a challenge and is very frustrating. We were ready to go with a deal and we are still ready to go.”

Mr Riordan told delegates that the announcement in the Budget of a £1.7bn Transforming Cities infrastructure programme, half of which will be allocated on a per capita to areas with metro mayors, was a “definite incentive for places that don’t have devolution deals to get one.”