Greenfield park favourite to be home to city’s medical hub

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A GREENFIELD site near Temple Newsam has emerged as the most likely home for a park which will attract some of the biggest names in Yorkshire’s health care sector.

Logic Leeds, a 100-acre site close to Junction 45 of the M1, is believed to be the favoured location for a new health campus.

Leeds City Council wants to build on the city’s status as a world leader in health care and create a campus for health companies of all sizes. It’s hoped the development, which would need £5m to £10m of private sector cash to get off the ground, could make it easier for local health care companies to provide services to the NHS in Yorkshire.

The council has come up with a list of five possible sites for the campus – Leeds Valley Park, Logic Leeds, Thorpe Park, Hawks Park and the Thorp Arch Estate near Wetherby. Logic Leeds, which is being developed by Manchester-based Muse Developments, is on part of the Lord Halifax Estate and inside the Aire Valley Leeds Enterprise Zone. The site has had planning permission for employment use since 2002.

Keyhole surgery specialist Surgical Innovations has already said that it would like to be the cornerstone of a Leeds medical park.

Tom Riordan, the chief executive of Leeds City Council, said the new campus could emulate the success of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP), near Rotherham, which has attracted leading engineering firms.

The health care sector employs around 32,000 people in Leeds. Companies like Emis, Surgical Innovations and Brandon Medical have all revealed substantial growth plans in recent months.

Mr Riordan, who is the former chief executive of regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, which has been axed as part of the Government’s austerity measures, said: “We have that critical mass and competitive edge on health care in Leeds. The basic idea is to get a cluster of companies together and you get more than the sum of the parts.

“One of the challenges of the AMP experience was that in some ways the SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) were almost priced out of it.

“What we’re keen to do with this (medical campus) is to make SMEs feel they are able to access and locate there, maybe alongside the bigger organisations.” Although he stressed that no decision had been made about the location of the campus, Mr Riordan said he was looking for somewhere that was close to the city centre, and the academics and medical firms that are driving the development of the health care sector.

He added “We want it to be affordable and accessible to SMEs. There’s got to be a good environment as well. Principally, it’s the private sector that needs to drive this.”

Mr Riordan said that in the past, Yorkshire Forward might have provided funding to support the development of the campus.

Now the public sector was playing much more of an enabling role, he said.

“I chair the group across the city that’s bringing together the different public and private sector players in this initiative,’’ he added. “We are being very client-driven, and very business driven...because we feel that’s the only way it will be sustainable in the long term. It’s really creating the conditions to allow the private sector to expand and get hold of the opportunities in the domestic and export market.”

He predicted that the final announcement about the park’s location would be made in months, rather than weeks. “We’re keen to get it moving quickly,’’ he said.

“We’re working to make sure that the research collaborations that take place have the best opportunities to gain access to Technology Strategy Board funding. We’re helping a couple of big companies at the moment in terms of applications for the Regional Growth Fund (RGF).”

The RGF was set up by the coalition Government to boost investment in areas affected by public sector cuts. Surgical Innovations secured an estimated £7m from the RGF. The Government recently announced that an extra £1bn of RGF has been made available. Mr Riordan said the NHS realised it had to procure more services from SMEs.

He added: “That’s something the Government is tackling nationally. I would love to get into a position where we have that ‘symbiosis’ happening in the city, and those deals being done here. We’re revamping the way we work in the public sector. We’re probably going through the sort of shock to the system that manufacturing went through 20 years ago. We’re having to commercialise our thinking in the way that we procure services, and drive a much harder bargain.”

The council hopes to have the first buildings developed on the medical campus by 2015.