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Leeds has best month’s news for years – and not just thanks to Yorkshire’s Olympic gold

Category : Business

Millions of pounds for transport and the revival of stalled city centre developments bode well for the home of the Brownlee brothers

Leeds is unusually quiet this morning, with large numbers of loyal citizens down in London’s Hyde Park to cheer on our local triathlon stars, the Brownlee brothers.

Gold and silver for them would tighten Yorkshire’s grip on the Olympic Games’ medals table. The latest twist to the current, enjoyable focus on that is that because China’s super-swimmers trained in Leeds, we should count all their medals too.

That would put Yorkshire top. Sorted.

But the Olympics are not everything, as the more sceptical type of Guardian reader constantly points out on threads; and I want to tell you more about the context to this quote:

Leeds is having its best couple of months for several years. July has brought broad smiles to Metro (West Yorkshire’s transport authority) and Leeds city council

.

This has nothing to do with sport; it’s the start of the main article in the latest newsletter from Leeds Civic Trust. Pause to declare a (non-financial) interest: I am this excellent organisation’s president.

The writer of the piece, the trust’s long-serving and immensely Leeds-steeped Dr Kevin Grady, catalogues a very interesting series of current economic plusses. They confirm my view (shared by many more authoritative observers) that yet again, the city is showing the self-confidence and chutzpah which ultimately turn round recession.

Reason for joy 1: on 16 July the Department of Transport approved Leeds’ £235 million trolleybus scheme, confirming a Government contribution of £173 million. No one dared to be optimistic about this after our tram travails. The line from Holt Park to Stourton will go ahead.

Reason for joy 2: as reported previously in the Northerner, the Northern Hub has got full funding of £560 million, a package which will hugely improve rail links in the three northern regions. Alongside this, further funding has been approved for a new, southern entrance to Leeds city station, whose western entrance is a case study of the worst in human nature.

Reason for joy 3: John Lewis has signed up as anchor tenant for the long-awaited and often delayed Harewood development at the bottom of Eastgate. This has been a classic Leeds operation, with the private sector putting up money but the council also playing a vital part by agreeing to buy and demolish the hideous Millgarth police station which is such a blight on this area.

Reason for joy 4: Caddick developments are also going ahead with buying the remaining vacant land on Quarry Hill and restarting that stalled development.

None of these things are hype. The Harewood project alone has 30 shops and six restaurants and will open in 2016. Kevin also points to new proposals for Clarence Dock, work under way on planning Sovereign Square as KPMG’s new headquarters and even a pending new scheme for the Lumiere site. He concludes:

Despite the frequent news broadcasts predicting economic Armageddon, there are very positive signs of a measure of confidence returning. In spite of the recession, by 2018 the face of Leeds city centre looks set to show considerable and hopefully very impressive changes.

And of course, by then our city will have been renamed Olympia.

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