Showcase highlights commercial strength

OVER 600 property professionals gathered in Leeds yesterday for a conference showcasing the development opportunities available in the region for investors.

Organised by Financial Leeds and sponsored by the Yorkshire Post, the day-long event featured investment-related seminars with key speakers from the region and the wider property sector.

The event began with a debate on the commercial value of Leeds and the city region.

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Martin Farrington, of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds’ strength is the strength of its commerce. We don’t get Objective One funding. A lot of funding that takes place comes from that commercial strength.”

According to the Office for National Statistics, the population of Leeds will grow by 25 per cent over the next 25 years. “In terms of the opportunities that Leeds faces now, the next five years will be a really exciting time,” he added.

But a lack of development in recent years has led to a restricted supply of office space. Jeff Pearey, head of the Leeds office of property agent Jones Lang LaSalle, said the lack of suitable occupational stock was the reason some companies were put off relocating to Leeds. He added: “But what is interesting is that before the recession there were several major occupiers looking at a number of cities and Leeds scored very highly and ticked lots of boxes. Investors are still very keen and lock on to the fact that there is still potential for rental growth.”

Gerald Jennings, Land Securities’ portfolio director for the North, insisted there was a “huge appetite” for retail in Leeds. The developer’s Trinity Leeds shopping development is already 60 per cent let. “In the current economic climate, that is amazing,” he added.

Speaking about the Government’s announcement last week that it plans to set up economy-boosting Enterprise Zones in 21 areas across the country, including the Leeds City Region, Howard Kew, chief executive of Financial Leeds, said: “We would be delighted to see the city extend southwards with something new and shiny.”