Regional report: Yorkshire

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Yorkshire: for many the greatest county in the UK, for others, home to no premiership football teams! Like most UK industry centres, Yorkshire experienced huge changes brought about by the industry revelation and two world wars.

Following the Second World War successive UK governments aimed to balance the books and tried desperately to realise the feelgood factor that many had hoped for after the war, but managing a decline is the best most governments have been able to achieve.

Sheffield steel perhaps encapsulates the highs and lows of the Yorkshire region post 1945. Once the powerhouse of the British Empire, ironically exporting the Bowie Knife to America, it wasn’t long before much of what had been achieved was scuppered by trade tariffs and competition from Europe.

According to figures from the Iron and Steel Statistics Bureau (ISSB), in 1969 South Yorkshire produced 3.6 million tonnes of steel – that has now reduced to 1.3 million tonnes. Poor trade union relations, nationalisation and renationalisation allowed other countries (notably Germany) to gain an advantage by investing at the critical time, which was mirrored throughout the country and the rest of the UK.

Mass production of steel has been in decline for up to 40 years along with the myth that as much steel is produced today.

However, like many stories throughout the region, there is hope – you only have to look at the amazing photographs on these pages.

A little closer to our sector of commercial office, Sheffield’s office market has continued to do well over the last two years. While there has been a reduction in the level of Grade A stock available, the development of 3 St Paul’s and the refurbishment of Milton House is good news for the city. Leeds’ office market, once again dominated by the professional sector, remains buoyant. BSkyB’s circa 97,000 sq ft pre-let at Leeds Dock and the most recent news from Bruntwoods development for Leeds City Train Station (see below) are great examples. Last year a take-up 600,000+ sq ft has been reported, interestingly around 60% of what was achieved in Manchester. As with Manchester, and most UK cities, prime rents will rise as the squeeze on supply from years of post-crisis development takes effect. Based on the current rate of demand some argue that Grade A will be eroded in Leeds by the end of the year.


The development of Thorpe Park (not the fantastic park in Chertsey) by Legal & General and the very active Scarborough Group International, headed by part owner of Sheffield United Kevin McCabe, was very welcome. Thorpe Park, on the eastern side of Leeds is the second phase, Scarborough Group International having sold the first stage will be the developer of 1.35m sq ft mix-use development; around 7,000 new homes and a million sq ft of office space.

Continuing our positive theme, Sir Michael Bear, Chairman of the UKTI Regeneration Investment Organisation, puts the Thorpe Park development into a UK perspective. ‘The United Kingdom is known internationally as an attractive place in which to invest in large-scale regeneration and infrastructure projects. For too long, however, investment has been focused on London and the South East.’

City House

Bruntwood’s investment into City House, Leeds, is underway, with an expected completion date of May 2017. The building will offer a total 119,210 sq ft, with full floors of 9,630 sq ft available.


The public sector, in the shape of Barnsley Council, is driving development in the town centre with a recent announcement that Henry Boot will lead the construction with Turner
& Townsend as the development management organisation in their £100m town centre redevelopment project.

Chinese investment

Whilst Chinese investment in property in London and Manchester has been evident recently, it is Sheffield that will benefit from Chinese-backed investment in the shape of a £65m mix used scheme.

Local firm New Era Development aims to set B&K to work on the 21-storey mixed leisure, commercial and student halls scheme early next year (695 student rooms, 70,000 sq ft of retail and business incubator office space).

Whitehall Riverside

Another exciting development in Leeds is No 2 Whitehall Riverside in Leeds, featuring 70,000 sq ft of office space and 38 parking spaces. The site was previously home to Whitehall Soap Works until the 1980’s. The new development will form part of the very impressive Town Centre Securities’ (TCS) Whitehall Riverside scheme, which includes the neighbouring No 1 Whitehall Riverside offices – home of business services provider FDM and Swedish bank Handelsbanken, who have taken 17,159 sq and 8,160 sq ft respectively. Something that Manchester could learn from is the Tower Square, part of the masterplan of the area, due to open this year set to be one of the biggest public spaces in Leeds.


As we discussed as last month’s Mix Inspired seminar in London, the use of brownfield land has never been more important in the world of commercial development. It has been announced that Leeds City Council has granted Carillion planning permission for the Tower Works which is billed as the largest brownfield site on the South Banks.

The scheme consists of 90,000sq ft of commercial office space, 16,000sq ft of A1 and A3 retail restaurant and bar spaces alongside a mix of residential accommodation and town houses. The council’s agreement came with the condition that the Grade II Engine House be lovingly repurposed.

Yorkshire, like the rest of the UK, will never achieve the economic power of pre-1939, however, like the rest of the UK and any great organisation, it has to remodel itself. Whilst most believe that balanced economy of service and manufacturing is desirable, what remains key to economic success on both a regional and national level is great people making great choices. Gary Verity comes to mind – who masterminded the successful bid to start the Tour de France in 2014, a man with brave insightful vision (Editor’s note: we don’t think Boris Johnson’s late withdrawal to host the start of the 2017 Tour had anything to do with his desire to leave the Eurozone!). We hope and expect Yorkshire has enough great people and heritage that not having a Premiership football team becomes an irrelevance.