Twelve ‘big ideas’ for delivering inclusive growth as part of a wider strategy are set to be considered by senior councillors next week.
The Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy 2018-2023 aims to deliver inclusive growth across the whole city. It focuses on three themes of people, place and productivity and will provide opportunities for all of Leeds’s citizens and communities, reducing unemployment and increasing wages.
The 12 ‘big ideas’ outlined in the strategy act as an action plan to encourage inclusive growth. These range from doubling the size of the city centre and supporting places and communities to responding to economic change; from working together to create better jobs to tackling low pay and boosting productivity.
The new strategy outlines how the council will work in partnership with businesses, universities, colleges, schools, the community sector and with other partners across the North to attract and retain talent, business, investment and visitors, while ensuring all of its communities benefit.
One ‘big idea’ included in the strategy focuses on backing innovators and entrepreneurs in business and social enterprises. If approved, the strategy will support start-up and scale-up businesses, boost innovation throughout the economy, and support firms of all sizes in all sectors, as well as promote social enterprises and innovation in public services.
To implement part of the Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy, Executive Board will consider proposals that will aim to protect start-up and SME businesses in the creative sector from being priced out of the city centre. It will ensure the area supports a diversity of users, with accessible and affordable spaces for smaller businesses.
Proposals would see work start with partners across the city to develop an action plan to identify and tackle barriers that may exclude small, creative businesses from being based in the city centre. As part of this, consideration is to be given to establishing a Small Grants Programme to support such businesses.
In the short term, it is also proposed that the council refurbishes two of its city centre buildings to provide more creative workspaces.
If the proposed renovations get the go-ahead, two key buildings will be transformed. These are The Engine House, a Grade II listed and vacant building located within Leeds South Bank, and Aire Street Workshops, already a home for successful creative businesses but somewhere that is in need of investment and refurbishment.
The Aire Street Workshops are already used as workspaces, but the council believe there is a need for investment to improve the space for new and SME businesses as well as extending the amount of space for businesses. The project, if approved, is seen as a chance to build upon the great work that already happens at Aire Street whilst ensuring the long-term sustainability of the property.
If agreed, the renovations and redevelopments will mean there are two workspaces for small and medium businesses within a five-minute walk from the train station.
Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said:
“Building a strategy that focuses on inclusive growth means giving everyone across the city the chance to benefit from a strong economy. It means increasing skills levels, along with more innovation, better infrastructure, investment in public services, reduced unemployment and increased wages.
“The Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy and its 12 ‘big ideas’ will reduce inequality in our city and help to ensure Leeds is a compassionate city with a strong economy that provides opportunities for all.
“As an example of this, we are dedicated to ensuring Leeds has a city centre with affordable, flexible spaces for new and SME creative businesses. We will work with partners to shape an approach that is inclusive whilst the refurbishment of the council buildings can help to improve the offer for small businesses in the short term.”
Both buildings are owned by Leeds City Council, who will seek expressions of interest for the redevelopment of the two premises into suitable SME workspaces if the project is approved. It is proposed that bidders will have the option to redevelop the properties as a package or separately.
Once expressions of interest are received, a further report will need to be taken back to the council’s Executive Board with recommendations on how to proceed, including funding and financing plans.
The Leeds Inclusive Growth Strategy 2018-2023 is part of a group of complementary wider strategies for the city and informs the council’s Best Council Plan. It is part of a joined-up strategic approach that incorporates the Health and Wellbeing, Culture and HS2 Growth strategies, with strong links into the South Bank framework, Transport Strategy, the Core Strategy, which underpins development across the city and the Site Allocations plan which allocates land for future housing, retail and greenspace use.
To find out more about the inclusive growth strategy and the 12 big ideas go to http://www.leedsgrowthstrategy.co.uk