Innovation framework drawn up to help shape city’s future

Plans for a new Leeds “Innovation Arc”, covering 150 hectares of the city centre, have been officially unveiled this week.

These proposals aim to bring together some of the city’s key innovation assets. From east to west the arc stretches from Park Row to Woodhouse Moor, with Leeds Railway Station in the bottom corner.

It includes the university campuses and hospital, as well as Park Square, Wellington Place estate, the River Aire and the canal, with the station represents an important gateway site in the south east corner of the arc.

A sequence of innovation neighbourhoods will be formed around the natural anchors of the main universities, the proposed adult and children’s hospitals, and major private sector partners.

There would also be improvements to public open space, walking and cycling provision, a potential mass transit route, a mix of space for housing, retail, commercial and culture, and a heritage-led approach to development.

As part of the project, areas have been earmarked for two new city parks creating four hectares of green space.

Now in the process of being adopted as a Supplementary Planning Document, the Leeds Innovation Arc is intended to help determine the evolution of the west of the city for years to come.

In July 2021, urban design firm Planit-IE, along with Deloitte and Civic Engineers, were commissioned by Leeds City Council to undertake the ‘Leeds City Centre West Spatial Analysis’, looking at the physical qualities of the area at the same time as an economic analysis being undertaken by Metro Dynamics.

Anna Couch, urban design studio director at Planit-IE, said: “The concept of the Arc emerged as we realised that we saw several areas where great innovation could overlap and thrive, along with the importance of the quality of the connections between them.

“You need residential, retail, public open space, culture, heritage and identity to create a successful and unique offer. We also considered the potential bridge link over the river and the ongoing Temple project which is extremely exciting.

“We had to demonstrate that innovation can’t exist in isolation without supporting retail, residential and transport infrastructure.”

Niall Alcock, director in Deloitte’s Real Assets Advisory team, said: “With the Leeds Innovation Arc you’ve got such strong existing anchor institutions with the potential for major capital projects to create clusters around. You also have the civic and cultural heart of the city, which together can create a unique offer to attract investment into the city.

“So you have the ingredients of a successful innovation district, it’s about knitting it together and building connections to areas around the city to improve access for all.”

Councillor James Lewis, leader of Leeds City Council, added: “Our city is already home to world-leading businesses, organisations and opportunities, and our proposals within the Innovation Arc’s supplementary planning document can help take our ambitions to the next level by bringing transformational change to Leeds, the wider region and the North.

“Delivering a better built environment can help accelerate growth and productivity in our city, creating good jobs and a place where employers want to locate and invest, and in turn driving progress towards a healthier, greener and more inclusive future.”

For more on how innovation will be revolutionising how we do business, click here for full details of the Disruptors 2022 conference. The 24 November event in Leeds will bring business leaders and innovators together from across the North. An exciting line-up of speakers will address the opportunities available for entrepreneurs and their companies as technological advances and disruption re-write the agenda for what will be possible in future.

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