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Up in the Aire

Hazel Davis on a major new regeneration scheme for Leeds

Published on September 25th 2008.

Up in the Aire

The rest of the country might be in economic turmoil, but the Leeds region is in the grip of a new regeneration project which looks set to create one of the most significant areas of investment opportunity in the North of England. The Aire Valley regeneration project – which is taking place to the south-east of Leeds city centre, bounded by the M1 and M62 – has been billed as 'the window to Leeds'.

For a window, it’s a very shiny one. Were you to take a helicopter ride over it at the moment, you would be presented with a veritable land of plenty. On all sides is building work, sparkly new equipment and ambitious outlines. When it’s finished, it will transform the region aerially, if not economically.

Says Alan Taylor, the scheme’s project manager. “The area is already an important employment location with 430 companies employing 15,000 people. Crucially however, the area also contains 400 hectares of potential development land, providing major opportunities to attract inward investment and new business activity.”

The potential for the Aire Valley regeneration project is huge. In the next decade, the area could accommodate up to 27,000 additional jobs, along with thousands of new homes and other facilities.

Taylor says the key to unlocking this potential is major investment in infrastructure. And work has begun to make this a reality. “The £32m East Leeds Link Road is nearing completion and will open in November. The 3.9km dual carriageway runs from the currently closed M1 Junction 45 through the Cross Green Estate, connecting with the city’s inner ring road.”

Says Taylor, “The new road is fundamental to the regeneration of the Aire Valley and will open up large areas of development land acting as a window to Leeds.”

The eastern end of the new road connects to another major road scheme – the £52m Inner Ring Road Stage 7, due for completion in October 2008. The two roads will, of course, increase connectivity and make the area a prime location for new business and development.

Among those new developments is Logic Leeds – a 50-hectare site fronting the road with consent for 1.6m sq ft of warehousing and industrial use. Logic Leeds will have the advantage of being the only large-scale bespoke warehouse/industrial accommodation with proximity to both the city centre and the M1. Plans are afoot for new office buildings, a hotel and other supporting amenities.

Skelton Gate is a 40-hectare site adjoining Junction 45 of the M1 with consent for 1.2m sq ft of offices and supporting uses. Thornes Farm and Temple Green, an 85-hectare site adjoining the M1 with consent for nearly 3m sq ft of warehousing, are in development, with occupiers including Macfarlane Transport, Mercado Carpets, Premier Motorauctions and Roberts Mart. Five hectares remain for industrial use.

Says Taylor, “There is strong interest in sites fronting the East Leeds Link Road for business development and there is also potential for residential and other development in some locations, including the waterfront.”

The Aire Valley has received growth point status from the government (which means it receives a share of a £4m pot of public funding) and the scheme has been on the cards for years, however problems with planning and lack of access have halted progress. But the new link road has ensured the desirability of the area.

Taylor says that as well as encouraging inward investment to the area, a key objective is to ensure local residents have maximum access to the new jobs: “A dedicated Employment Access Team works with existing and potential employers to identify requirements and match these with jobseekers from the surrounding communities.”

According to the Aire Valley project, more than 1000 local people have been assisted into employment so far, “and activity is likely to increase as more companies recognise the benefits of moving to the Aire Valley in the coming years.”

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