YEP Leeds attended UKREiiF last month – and what a great week we had!

by Johnny Clayton on Wednesday, 1 June 2022

With over 300 speakers, 15 stages and 50 fringe events our committee members were able to attend a range of events focussing on their particular interests and expertise. We take a look at some of the key themes.

Here is what our committee member, Ben Gibson (Senior Planner at Pegasus), observed:

With UKREiiF being just one week after the Government’s Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill had its first reading in the House of Commons, it was a great opportunity to build knowledge of the key themes and subjects driving levelling up in the UK.

From future high streets, to housing, placemaking and net zero, attendees gained a valuable insight from various speakers into how the Government’s ambitions may affect different sectors.

It was particularly interesting to hear from the UK’s Housing Minister who provided context behind proposals contained within the Bill.

With the Bill being an outline of the Government’s aims for levelling up, it will be interesting to see forthcoming secondary legislation to understand how the aims will be achieved in practice, and whether this aligns with ideas shared at UKREiiF.

YEP Leeds committee member Richard Hinds (Development Surveyor at HBD) had this to say about his takeaway thoughts:

UKREiiF was an excellent showcase for Leeds as a city pulling different Local Authorities, developers, consultants and institutions to the city to collaborate and share ideas on Real Estate and Infrastructure. The conference provided a fantastic platform for thought leadership and showcasing best-in-practice development.

Leeds City Council made their agenda clear on their investment into innovation in the bio and tech sectors with huge support from the University of Leeds. Couple this with the launch of Northern Gritstone (which is a ground-breaking new investment company looking to raise £500 mill worth of capital to support upscaling and commercialisation on tech related start-ups), the message was loud and clear to the market that Leeds is not just ‘open’ but is ‘primed’ for business and investment opportunities.

York Central also formed a large focus point dubbed as Europe’s largest brownfield regeneration site. Landowners,  Homes England and Network Rail presented through retained advisers JLL their aspirations for a mixed-use scheme and launched their hunt for a development partner, which is hoped to be concluded by the end of 2022.  

A final take-away came from a panel discussion between HBD’s Vivienne Clements and St Modwen who shared their synopsis of the industrial market dynamics. Whilst the entire country has experienced record-breaking take-up and investor appetite over the past couple of years, it’s safe to say the future will provide new challenges in sustainability and supply/demand imbalances which the sector will need to tackle in order to sustain industrial as the leading property asset class.   

As Richard reflected, the conference provided plenty of opportunity to highlight the fantastic work and opportunities in Leeds including new developments and infrastructure which are taking place.

Further showcasing this, our committee member, Lee Arnell, Executive Manager Regeneration at Leeds City Council, hosted a ‘Net-walking’ tour of City’s South Bank in collaboration with a number of major landowners in the area. The walk centred on the city’s journey so far in transforming a highways-dominated industrial area into a vibrant, mixed-use city centre neighbourhood – including the area’s waterfront regeneration, zero carbon family housing, a pioneering affordable housing development, the largest new city centre greenspace in the UK and last but certainly not least the proposals for British Library North at the iconic Grade I listed Temple Works building at the heart of the area.

Key themes which appeared during the course of the week included ESG, Innovation, Levelling-Up, Sustainability (Re-use or Re-build debate) and placing culture and creativity at the heart of New Developments.

Our committee member, Chris Paraskos (Associate at S+SA Architects) commented:

Previously the green agenda was something of an afterthought during many discussions within the property industry; UKREiiF has clearly highlighted that this is no longer the case. Sustainability is now at the forefront of development and investment, not only from an energy consumption perspective but also from a social and wellbeing perspective, to drive forward more sustainable and inclusive communities within the property and construction industries. Moda Living discussed some of the smart infrastructure going into their developments at the ‘Public Health Impact – Real Estate & ESG’ discussion enabling each building to collect and analyse data to assist residents to live more sustainably along with the ability to provide meal plans and events tailored to specific demographics. Whilst I can see that many would be conscious of how much data is contained on each of us just within our phones never mind if our homes are beginning to follow suit, data is key to making our buildings smarter, more efficient and reactive to our needs.

“Collaboration not Competition” – was a key term used by the Chief Executive of Bradford Council on the levelling up stage regarding realising the north’s potential and being from the north, I think this really captured how business works in the north compared to London. Companies are built on one another, support each other and push each other forward rather than focusing in. I see this ethos within the YEP group itself, as with many similar groups working together the output will be much greater. The discussion later focused on supporting the younger generation to develop talent streams not only due to the current difficulties in recruiting but mainly from a socially conscious ethos as the schooling system is often not suited for many.

UKREiiF had diversity at its heart, in terms of the spread of events but also in terms of how the sector can rise to the challenge of being more inclusive and diverse and ensuring that our infrastructure, investments and developments can do the same.

Our YEP Leeds Vice Chair, Grace Ellinor, and her colleague, Sarah Parry, from Leeds City Council kicked the week off with their ‘Building Female’ fringe event which included a lively discussion centred on women’s experience of the built environment and the legacy they wish to create for both Leeds as a city and the wider industry itself. Some really interesting and important themes were drawn out of the discussion, some of which include the importance of gender inclusivity and reflective leadership as well as growing our allies across the sector and increasing engagement and consultation with young people as future users and leaders of place!

Our Committee member Laura O’Brien (Senior Associate at Eversheds Sutherland) also had this to say:

Attending the discussion on Education, Equality and Gender was immensely thought provoking. Empowering our young people and engaging with them on developments and infrastructure is hugely important to ensure that the world we build meets the needs and requirements of future generations – who knew that gaming arcades were making a come-back. Educating our young people and showcasing how they can influence cities around them is also important to attract talent to the sector and maximise engagement. Equally, there is a lot we can learn from future generations and the idea of reverse mentoring was one easily achievable but impactful action we could all benefit from. 

The week was a resounding success with lots of interesting, thought-provoking content and much networking (which has been hugely missed during Covid). It was fantastic to be able to showcase our city and the wider region and we are hugely grateful to Nathan Spencer and the team at Built Environment Network for the opportunity to attend.

We anticipate that next year UKREiiF will be even bigger, better and, importantly, even more diverse. We are particularly excited to see how the event can fuse with Leeds 2023 ‘Year-long celebration of culture’. All in all, one final reflection from Richard Hinds, which we couldn’t agree with more “Leeds has done well to secure the same event for 2023 which I anticipate to be even more successful …. I can’t wait.”  

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