Use empty properties for start-up shops

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An abundance of vacant property in Leeds city centre could be used to help more start-up businesses get off the ground.

The food guru of the north, Thom Hetherington, who is based near Manchester, is crossing the Pennines to work with the Independent Food Academy in Leeds.

Part of his remit is to mentor and pioneer new ventures and help to turn them into sustainable and thriving businesses.

He has called upon private landlords and Leeds City Council to look at how they offer city centre locations to tenants in terms of contracts and rents.

Mr Hetherington told City Buzz: “When I first walked around Leeds I was excited to get about and up to the Northern Quarter.

“What really strikes me is the property that you have in Leeds. There are retail units that are empty or run down and crying out for independents or pop-ups to go in there.

“Walk around Manchester and you just don’t see that.”

He said Leeds needs to make better use of space and referred to the success stories of Laynes Espresso Bar on New Station Street and Bundobust at Mill Hill which have taken up such spaces on lower rents and rates - enabling them to put the extra cash injection into the project.

Both ventures are now thriving and developing.

Recently, City Buzz reported how Pizza Fella grew from serving wood-fired street food from out of the back on a van to opening a restaurant in a disused former sex shop in Vicar Lane.

Mr Hetherington added: “Landlords here are using buildings and areas to support independents, but that is not the norm. This just does not happen in other cities.

“It gives me a lot of joy and I am excited about what the city could do.”