Welcome to Yorkshire Y21 conference - Channel 4 director Sinead Rocks says more London-based staff are wanting to move to Yorkshire since the pandemic

Channel Four's managing director of nations and regions has said there has been a surge of interest in relocating to Yorkshire among the broadcaster's staff in the past year.

Channel Four have occupied The Majestic near Leeds Station

Sinead Rocks, who joined Channel Four from the BBC in 2019 and has moved to the region herself with her partner and baby, told Welcome to Yorkshire's annual conference that employees were 'reassessing' their work-life balance since the pandemic began and are now more open transferring their roles to the broadcaster's Leeds office, which opened last year.

She said bosses had also been highly impressed by the quality of local applicants for newly-created positions based in Leeds.

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"Leeds was no big sell to the workforce and the ex-London staff have really thrown themselves into it - there's one renovating a house in Harrogate who loves it here. Since Covid, we've had more staff asking if they can move up here - they are reassessing what they want and Yorkshire comes out of that really well. We've also been blown away by the calibre of the candidates we've had from this area applying.

"Everything felt right about opening the office in Leeds. We worked closely with Screen Yorkshire and other organisations who really took the time to understand what we want to achieve. We really want to grow the production sector outside London and the stars just aligned. Screen Yorkshire have been brilliant in showcasing the area, and there are the skills, facilities and infrastructure up here - the perfect ingredients for our recipe."

As Welcome to Yorkshire has realigned the agency's focus from promoting tourism to marketing Yorkshire as a place to live, work and study as well as visit, the conference also heard from industry leaders from across the region.

Former Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint spoke about how he expects companies to become more 'tolerant' of a culture of flexible working, thus widening the region's talent pool. Mr Flint said his former employer, which has 2,000 staff based in Leeds and Harrogate, plans to move to a hybrid model that combines home and office working in future.

"It really opens up the number of places where people can live if they are only travelling into work one or two days a week."

Thomas Martin, chairman of Hull-based safety products supplier Arco, said his firm had turned down the chance to open a logistics base in the Midlands despite being advised to do so in favour of a new distribution centre in their home city.

Mr Martin also said that despite the business recruiting specialist staff from across the world, he rarely had to convince them to move to the East Riding.

"We do look outside of Yorkshire for those extra skills - Scotland, the south, overseas. Whenever those people ask if I can sell Yorkshire to them, I give them the chance to speak to 10-15 of my staff who have made the move, and I tell them to ask the golden question - 'would you ever move back?' Never once have I had to sell the East Riding because my staff do it for me."

Arco experienced 'infinite demand but finite supply' of its products during the pandemic, forcing the company to adapt quickly.

"We hired 10 jets to fly in from China, we got our new shed ready in just six weeks. It completely changed the rules, and it required a fleetness of floot - bravery, innovation. People here get things done."

Announcements made during the two-day virtual conference included the subject of Welcome to Yorkshire's 2022 campaign, A Taste of Yorkshire, and the launch of a fundraising 'Tour de Walkshire' event this May with proceeds going to partner charity Yorkshire Cancer Research. A five-year Accessible Yorkshire scheme will also work with member businesses to improve accessibility for those with mobility issues.

Food and drink showcase A Taste of Yorkshire is backed by Michelin-starred chef James Mackenzie, who told the conference how the vast array of quality local produce has enabled his gastropub The Pipe and Glass at South Dalton, near Beverley, to retain its coveted star - one of seven awarded in Yorkshire - for the past 12 years.

"We bought the pub 15 years ago to offer quality Yorkshire food and our premise is the same now as it was then. We now have over 50 staff and nine guest rooms. Getting the Michelin star is a great mark of approval, but it also brings people in to an area who will spend money there.

"We've got great producers round here - cheese, meat from local farms, lobster and crab from Bridlington, game from the Dales and moors. Chefs' menus in London are full of Yorkshire game and rhubarb."