HOW times change. Ten years ago, construction work ground to a halt in Leeds city centre, and left prestige development sites moribund, as a result of the financial crash.
Fast forward a decade and the city is prospering – the skyline is changing almost daily – as new office and residential schemes rapidly take shape at prestige locations.
And, as Leeds – and the rest of Yorkshire – benefit from major retail and leisure developments, like Trinity Leeds and Victoria Leeds, business chiefs are now planning the next phase growth.
This is reflected by the ambitious plans being put forward by the Leeds Business Improvement District. As well as enhancing the city’s retail reputation, and making sure stores can withstand the complex challenges facing this key sector, it has also identified significant opportunities on the waterfront to the south of the city centre.
Another statement of intent, such plans illustrate the importance of HS2 – and Northern Powerhouse Rail – to the city’s future fortunes. But – and this is the key caveat – they highlight the importance of public transport improvements across Leeds and the wider city-region. For, while Leeds City Council has made a conscious decision to discourage motorists driving into the city centre, even to park, train and bus services have not kept pace with demand.
Unlike Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle and Manchester, Leeds still does not have a tram or light rail system. And until transport improvements keep pace with the public and private sector investment, the city will remain at a distinct disadvantage.