Leeds should be frontrunner for Channel 4's new regional headquarters

LEEDS is one of the best equipped cities to host Channel 4's new regional headquarters, new research suggests.


The city scores highly across a number of criteria including workforce suitability, housing affordability, creative industry provision and university links, according to research from planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore.

The firm’s research department has assessed the cities pitching to become Channel 4’s new home, which will include a move for some 300 staff by 2019.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Leeds was consistently scored among the top five in the criteria – making it one of three frontrunners along with Bristol and Glasgow.

James Hall, partner at Barton Willmore, said: “This is a significant opportunity for Leeds – one that could lead to the creation of jobs and act as a catalyst for the growth of creative industries in the city.

“We already have a thriving film and TV cluster in Yorkshire, combine that with a highly skilled, degree-educated workforce; affordable housing and universities with world-class communication, media and cultural studies – it’s a recipe for success.

“Leeds and the surrounding area is a great place to live and work and attracting Channel 4 would provide another reason for the city to retain its graduates.”

Barton Willmore’s research showed Leeds performed particularly well on university links. The team’s analysis focused on results of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework which compares research output of UK universities.

Meanwhile data on the number of jobs and relative specialisms across the creative media industry also showed Leeds was among the top five locations in the UK.

James Donagh, research director with Barton Willmore, added: “This is a huge opportunity for a city to benefit from one of the biggest names in UK broadcasting.

“The new regional hub is set to spawn a thriving media ecosystem, with Channel 4 already committing to spending half of its total £700m annual programme budget with TV companies outside of London by 2023.

“Much like Amazon’s recent search for a second North American headquarters, Channel 4 will need to take a highly methodical and objective approach to selecting a new base – though the limited fiscal powers of UK local authorities mean we are unlikely to see an incentive package arms race as was the case with the Amazon completion.

“Channel 4’s selection criteria will very much be based on each city’s individual merit – and the four categories we selected will undoubtedly be critical in any future decision making. We used objective data sources to allow us to rank each emerging candidate city, with Leeds scoring highly across each category.”

Screen Yorkshire’s campaign to bring Channel 4 to Leeds – #4Sparks – was launched late last year.

At the time, figures from the ONS showed growth of Yorkshire & Humber’s film and TV industries had outstripped that of every other part of the UK.

Between 2009-2015 the region’s film and TV industries generated an annual turnover of £424m across 590 creative businesses – with gross value added (GVA) increasing 242 percent in comparison with a UK average growth of 120 percent.

Sally Joynson, chief executive at Screen Yorkshire, welcomed Barton Willmore’s research.

She said: “We are very excited by the findings of Barton Willmore, which further supports the Leeds City Region bid to host Channel 4’s new regional HQ.

“Screen Yorkshire has long believed in the strength of the region’s dynamic creative sector and the wealth of creative and digital talent within it.

“While there is still much work to do, we – together with Leeds City Region - are looking forward to a constructive dialogue with Channel 4 to see how the city can support Channel 4’s future growth and deliver against its ‘4 All the UK’ strategy.”

Roger Marsh OBE, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, said: “Having worked hard over many months to understand Channel 4’s requirements and ambitions the Leeds City Region is well-placed to submit a compelling and thereby unignorable proposal when bids are delivered next month.

“We are home to the fastest-growing TV, film and creative media sector in the UK and a concentration of young, diverse, digital creative talent as highlighted by our hugely successful #4Sparks campaign. Allied to our strong connections to the rest of the country and our digital infrastructure, the Leeds City Region is the logical choice to host a significant presence from Channel 4 that would help significantly rebalance the UK’s digital and creative economy.

“By choosing the Leeds City Region, Channel 4 could be the spark of opportunity for our creative sector bringing huge cultural and economic benefits to the organisation, the region and the country.”

Channel 4’s intended move is the result of a 2017 Conservative Party manifesto pledge to move Channel 4 out of London. The broadcaster will retain a London base.

The other 11 cities contending the move include Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hull, Liverpool, Norwich, Salford, Sheffield and Stoke-on-Trent.