The Northern Powerhouse is a strategy that the UK government introduced to address the historic North-South divide in the country. The plan brings together considerable investment, more local autonomy and closer collaboration between the North’s key cities. A Northern Powerhouse Minister was elected, Metro Mayors were voted in and pledges were signed. But what can the Northern Powerhouse initiative bring to Leeds?
The city boasts an impressive location, right in the heart of the Northern Powerhouse area, with a strong economy and established industries. The Northern Powerhouse has already benefitted Leeds by choosing to house some of its biggest teams there. Leaders from Leeds have also pledged to work together with leaders from Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield to work together to become a strong economic region.
Perhaps the greatest thing that the Northern Powerhouse initiative can do for Leeds is to connect it to its fellow Northern cities. Tom Forth, an associate at ODILeeds said to the BBC “To win business and public investment, I too often have to go to London,” he says.
“It’s insane. Each city in the North is too small to fight against that. We can only drag some of that investment northwards if we work together.
“If the people of Wigan, Pontefract and County Durham are better off commuting to Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, and Newcastle then that’s what has to happen. So many young people in those places currently leave. A Northern Powerhouse gives them an option to stay.”
Transport in the North has been notoriously unreliable, and one big push of the Northern Powerhouse has been to improve links between the cities. New plans for the Northern Powerhouse Rail Strategy should be instrumental in easing the commute between the Northern cities and the rest of the world. Plans are in place to reduce the commuting time between Leeds and Manchester to under half an hour which will be huge for the city. The actual distance between Leeds and Manchester is shorter than the length of the central tube line, but there just simply aren’t the transport links in place at the present time.
According to Transport for the North (TfN), less than 10,000 people in the North can access four or more of the North’s largest economic centres within an hour. This figure would rise to 1.3 million people once the proposed rail plan is delivered. It would also create fast, frequent connections between the North’s core cities and Manchester Airport, which will boost international investment and connectivity with the North. HS2 – the long awaited high-speed train line that will link a number of Northern cities to Birmingham and London – will also stop at Leeds. It is one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK and is due to be fully completed in 2033.
These proposed changes should enable Leeds to be far more connected to the rest of the UK and the rest of the world. Increased collaboration between Leeds and the other Northern Powerhouse cities should lead to more opportunities for investment and employment across the region. Property in Leeds is also benefitting from the Northern Powerhouse initiative. Companies like RW Invest are investing heavily in Leeds and its growth forecasts are impressive. With a growing population, increased connections with other northern cities and extensive regeneration projects planned, the future looks bright for Leeds as part of the Northern Powerhouse.