Yorkshire cities target Chinese investment

SHEFFIELD’S new retail quarter and the redevelopment of Leeds’s south bank are among projects worth £24 billion presented to Chinese investors by George Osborne and northern council leaders today.

George Osborne is leading a trade trip to China

The Chancellor hopes Chinese money could help transform infrastructure in Yorkshire’s cities as part of his ‘Northern Powerhouse’ plan to grow the North of England economy.

The two Yorkshire redevelopment projects have been included in a “pitchbook” showcasing investment opportunities in the North unveiled during a trade trip to China led by Mr Osborne along with a delegation including the leaders of Leeds and Sheffield councils.

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The document also includes seven contracts worth a total of £11.8 billion for the first phase of the proposed HS2 high speed rail line between London and Birmingham. The second phase is due to bring the line north to Sheffield and Leeds.

Mr Osborne said: “As we continue to work more closely with China, we have an unprecedented opportunity to secure significant investment into some of our most ambitious projects across our Northern Powerhouse.

“From Liverpool to Newcastle, we are opening up our doors to investment that will not only help us to grow and create jobs, but will allow us to build infrastructure to rival any region in the world.”

Alongside the publication of the pitchbook, Mr Osborne announced that the number of enterprise zones - where firms are given incentives such as tax breaks to locate - could be doubed across the North.

The Government will also commission a report looking at links between UK cities and China to consider ways of attracting more investment.

Leeds City Council has ambitious plans for a major redevelopment of the city’s south bank area which includes a new city park and improved public transport as well as new office space.

Leeds City Council leader Judith Blake said: “Visiting China with other Council leaders from across the North has enabled us to build on our existing strong relations with Leeds’ partner city of Hangzhou and to meet potential new partners for trade and investment.

“Bringing investment into our major regeneration and transport schemes across the North will deliver a long overdue boost to the economy providing many much needed job opportunities.”

A proposed major retail scheme for Sheffield city centre was one of the casualties of the credit crunch but the city’s council is now pursuing a revised project.

The authority estimates the project could create 2,500 jobs and bring in an additional £300 million a year to the city centre.

It recently shortlisted potential development partners for the project and hopes work could start in 2016.

Sheffield City Council leader Julie Dore said: “Connecting up the centres of our major cities has to be a priority.

“And the opportunity for Chinese investment to help deliver our plans for new infrastructure must be seen as a basis for faster economic growth.”

Today’s announcement included moves to breathe new life into an existing partnership between the Chinese city of Chengdu and Sheffield.

The trade trip has already seen a commitment to invest in other Leeds and Sheffield projects.