More family-friendly parks needed in Leeds city centre, say business leaders

Planners and developers should take a look at their counterparts in Europe to make the centre of Leeds a more family-friendly space during the next phase of development, according to some of the city’s business leaders.

During a debate about Leeds’s evolution, panellists argued that there should be more of a focus on family in the city centre, instead of just creating ‘corporate’ green spaces.

Sharon Brigden, owner and founder of SLBPR, said: “There’s not even a swing in the middle of Leeds. We promote ourselves as a family-friendly city but I think we could do more.

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“The city is doing brilliantly with the planning and the green spaces that we’re bringing in now but I think it would be really good to look at what the offering is as a family-friendly city and that would also help with retention.

More effort is needed to create more family-friendly spaces in Leeds city centre during the next phase of development, according to some of the city’s business leaders.

“It wouldn’t be hard to do, we’ve still got space. We can’t promote ourselves as a family-friendly city when there isn’t even anywhere for a kid to go down a slide.”

Amy Leach, associate director at Leeds Playhouse, added: “I went to Copenhagen with my son when he was quite little and we had an amazing city break for exactly that reason.

“There are trampolines built into the sidewalks. You can do a lot of leisure activities in the heart of the city centre.

“Some of that is geographical but I look at some of the empty buildings we have post-pandemic and post-Brexit in Leeds and think about how we might reimagine those spaces and how they could be used to enable families to spend their time in the city centre.

“I think Leeds is already a green city - it’s much greener than a lot of UK cities and we have incredible access to a lot of green spaces, just not in the centre and I think that would be a great thing.”

The event, organised by Moda and hosted by The Yorkshire Post business reporter Lizzie Murphy, was part of The UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF), which saw over 5,000 delegates descend on Leeds for three days.

The wide-ranging debate, called This is Leeds!, saw four Leeds-based businesses from outside the built environment, talk about the city’s evolution and how this rise in interest has impacted their operations and experiences.

Bobby Thandi, founder and chief executive of XR Games, said: “We’ve got an amazing games industry based in Leeds, which is helping to put Leeds on the international map.

““You can also show international clients a really good time here. When Sony Pictures comes over I can take them to Man Behind the Curtain, Crafthouse, Issho, Tattu, and other great places and they can have a really good night out and they can’t wait to come again.

“Meanwhile, if we’re trying to attract a senior member of staff, we can highlight the great neighbourhoods or great schools, and for graduates it’s the property available in the city centre and nightlife.”

Gary Hetherington, chief executive of Leeds Rhinos, said: “The perception of Leeds externally is a really positive one. I think students look forward to coming to Leeds because it’s a great city.”

He added: “There’s also a real civic pride. It’s one of the few cities where sports fans support all the teams.”

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