Leeds welcomes record level of construction activity as demand for new homes soars

Leeds enjoyed the highest level of construction activity in more than 15 years last year, with demand for residential buildings fuelling the increase.

Deloitte’s annual Regional Crane Survey, published today, showed residential construction activity to be at a record high, with a total of 10 new developments getting underway to deliver 2,267 homes – a 210 per cent increase from 2020.

There were 18 residential schemes under construction in 2021, comprising of 4,192 homes - a 57 per cent increase from 2020, something Deloitte said indicated significant market confidence as well as an appetite for new residential development and city centre living in Leeds.

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The office sector also showed an improved performance with five new starts in 2021, up from four the year prior.

The Queens Hotel revamp was lauded as a success story for the city.

Despite only 82,389 sq ft of new office space being delivered in 2021, the new sites contributed to over 860,000 sq ft of space under construction in 2021, across seven sites - well above the survey’s four-year average of 704,100 sq ft.

Educational floor space reached one of the highest amounts recorded in the Crane Survey’s history.

There was 465,958 sq ft of educational floor space completed in 2021.

The developments completed in 2021 were across higher education institutions including Leeds Beckett University and the University of Leeds. Leeds Beckett completed its new creative arts building, and the University of Leeds delivered its Esther Simpson building.

Building work at pace in city.

However, there were no new starts in 2021 or 2020.

Following a slow-down in construction activity in the student accommodation sector last year, 2021 saw a surge in developments, with six new starts and 2,226 bedspaces currently under construction. This follows only one new start in each of the past three years, and 942 bedspaces under construction in 2020.

However, the retail, leisure and hotel sectors were subdued in 2021, with no retail or leisure new starts and only one hotel development.

This was tempered however by two leisure and two hotel completions in 2021 which saw 120,000 sq ft of space and 286 new hotel beds added in 2021.

Deloitte's crane survey has good news for Leeds.

There were two leisure completions in 2021 – the refurbishment of Howard Assembly Rooms and the restoration of First White Cloth Hall. The latter forming part of the £1.5m from National Lottery Heritage funding for conversions and repairs to buildings on Kirkgate.

There was one new start in the hotel sector in 2021 – the refurbishment of the Queen’s Hotel.The future pipeline looks set to increase, with the possibility of three new hotel developments including The Wesley Hotel, 17 Wellington Street and George Street,

Stuart Cottee, practice senior partner at Deloitte in Yorkshire and the North East, said: “It’s really encouraging to see Leeds observing a record breaking year in construction activity.

“The city continues to show resilience despite the continuing challenges of the pandemic and wider supply chain disruption.

Stuart Cottee - Deloitte

“As restrictions continue to lift and uncertainty wanes, Leeds is gearing up for a good pipeline of development, particularly in the residential sector, pointing to continued confidence in the city centre.”

Councillor James Lewis, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This record-breaking year for construction in Leeds, combined with the scale and breadth of investment in recent years, shows continued resilience and confidence in our city which is vitally important as our economy recovers and grows.

“We are mid-way through some of the largest infrastructure investments in Leeds city centre for 50 years, and encompassed within our ambitions for our built environment is our strong commitment to providing the highest quality sustainable open and green spaces which put people first.”