Michael Gove: 'Stars are aligned' for drive economic growth in Leeds from next month

Leeds is set to begin its transition into an economic powerhouse over the next month, Michael Gove has said, as key legislation is set to be signed off in the next month.

In an interview with The Yorkshire Post, the Levelling Up Secretary said that the West Yorkshire investment zone could be part of Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement.

In addition, Mr Gove, hopes for key reforms in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to be signed off in the next fortnight when it returns to Parliament next week.

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It comes as the cabinet minister visited Leeds to champion key areas earmarked for development as part of the Government’s long-term plan on housing.

Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove during a visit to a housing development.Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove during a visit to a housing development.
Rishi Sunak and Michael Gove during a visit to a housing development.

South Yorkshire earlier this year was awarded an investment zone around Sheffield and the surrounding areas, covering advanced manufacturing, which champions said would help develop the technology to create eco-friendly air travel.

West Yorkshire could follow suit on 22 November when the Chancellor gives his Autumn Statement.

It comes after The Yorkshire Post revealed that the investment zone, based around Leeds, will be set to focus on financial benefits for the region’s health and digital sectors.

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“Next week, the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will be back in the House of Lords and then back in the House of Commons as well,” Mr Gove said.

“It's my intention, Inshallah, that we get the levelling up and regeneration bill through all these parliamentary stages within the next fortnight.”

On the new investment zone for West Yorkshire, Mr Gove added: “We're working towards, I hope, more news around the time of the Autumn Statement, but can't guarantee that at the moment.”

He said that 20,000 new homes in Leeds will help the city realise its potential by building on its “formidable strengths” in the health and digital sectors.

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“We identified in July Leeds as one of the areas which we saw as having the greatest potential for further housing and commercial development as part of our broader Levelling Up drive,” he said.

There are up to 70 sites across Leeds that ministers are looking to “unlock” as part of this.

Mr Gove admitted that some of the sites currency are on land that is safeguarded under plans to bring HS2 to the city, but following the decision by the Prime Minister to scrap the

“Yes, some of it is land that HS2 as a company or as an organisation acquired, but it is the case that more broadly, we have plans to link and to expand development across all of these sites large and small,” he said.

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“We think that the stars are aligned, and that there is now an opportunity to make sure that we helped to assemble the sites across Leeds City centre that can reinforce the great work that's already been done in driving economic growth in Leeds,” he added.

Mr Gove acknowledged that housing has become a “significant” issue ahead of next year’s election, and was confident that the Government can unlock up to 20,000 additional homes in the next decade in Leeds and that ministers will hit their target of a million new homes built over the course of this Parliament.

Looking beyond the next election, which would require a significant Conservative fightback after it lost another two by-elections to Labour yesterday, he said the new legislation in the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will be key to solving the housing crisis.

“For example, we will make it easier for lands to be compulsorily purchased, and for local authorities and others not to have to pay over the odds to landowners in order to get that land in order to develop,” he said.

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“And we'll also be bringing forward plans for new development corporations in order to drive that development.

“And we will also be explaining how we're going to streamline the planning system and improve the ability of local communities to get a plan in place which will deliver housing.”

Mr Gove said that Leeds has “great potential” but like many UK cities, faces major challenges.

“Many of our cities don't have, particularly in their centres, the housing required in order to make sure that the individuals who will be living, working and contributing to a sense of buzz, but also contributing to this new investment can live as close to where they work as possible,” he said.

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“Leeds [has] formidable strengths in the health and life sciences, and, and again, the presence of the NHS here is testament to that.

“[It] has a significant level of leadership in tech and digital, and again, that's partly because of the strength of its universities, partly because of the entrepreneurial culture here, partly because of the financial services backing.

“And alongside that, we want to make sure that government plays its part.

“So whether that's through British Library North or through the work that we'll be doing in order to unlock new sites for development, it's all designed to be a series of levers all being pulled at once in order to allow Leeds to accelerate economically.”