Covid 19- Leeds property market - Capital Property Manager

Covid 19 – Catalyst for Positive Property Change?

By Angela O'Hearne


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Another post that demonstrates how the flexibility of Capital Property Manager is the ideal database to evolve seamlessly with changes to the property market.

In this article Judy Fawcett, real estate partner at Shoosmiths LLP, takes a look at how the Leeds property market can respond to the challenges and opportunities that Covid-19 is bringing to the way we live and work in the future. 

Covid-19 has undoubtedly brought about changes, both positive and negative, to the way we live and work. It can be a catalyst for change and brings opportunity for those cities who are ready to reinvent themselves. I am going to look at a few ways that the local property industry already is and can continue to help with that process.

How can we meet the increased housing demand of a growing population?

We should all be looking for ways to support the renewed demand from people who want to live and work in the City Centre. The Government has set an ambitious 300,000 new home pledge which will require not only new build developments but also the re-purposing of existing office, retail, leisure and industrial premises to uses more suited to the 21st century and the current demands of the market and wider population.

These new homes will be a mixture of build to sell and build to rent schemes. We have been working closely with our clients both on the traditional purpose built flats for rent and also on new build homes to rent and expect to see this market really grow in the Leeds city region over the coming months and years just as it has done in other cities around the UK.

We need to respond quickly to meet the increased demand and modern methods of construction reflect an increasingly innovative approach to housing development being adopted by many of the UK’s housebuilders. Legal and General chose the Leeds city region to develop their 550,000 square foot factory to manufacture up to 3500 modular homes each year. Planning permission was granted in 2019 for the UK’s largest modular council housing development in Holbeck. However with only 7.5% of the UK’s housing currently being pre-fabricated, compared to 84% in Sweden, there is a long way to go.

Where is the space for further city centre development?

The Government introduced permitted development rights in August 2020 allowing the demolition and rebuilding of vacant and redundant office and light industrial buildings into dwellings without the need for planning permission.

Development into air space got a boost with some limited permitted development rights being granted to allow certain purpose built blocks of flats to be extended by adding up to two storeys. There are conditions attached to those rights which mean that such projects will still require approval based on the impact to transport, highways, contamination and flooding. They currently only apply to stand alone blocks of flats of not less than 30 metres in height and built post 1948.  The right does not extend to conversions or those blocks with other uses on the ground floor though it is expected that the rights will be extended to the creation of homes above terraces, offices and shops.   Nor does it apply to listed buildings or those in conservation areas.

What about regeneration?

The ongoing decline in manufacturing and industrial jobs also means that successful cities need to find new uses for the space that is left behind.  Kirkstall Forge, is a great local example of a modern new development, supported by a new railway station, which is emerging from industrial decline.

The Majestic building in City Square which was completed recently is another fantastic example of how an old building can be sympathetically brought back to life and updated for the modern era. It is an amazing impact building right outside of the city station and was able to attract Channel 4 on its relocation from London to Leeds.

What about flexible space for the future?

Leeds already has a thriving tech community with the digital sector contributing more than £1.3 billion to the City’s economy and £6.5 billion to the wider region.  These businesses need flexible space like Bruntwood’s Platform building. In its central location above the Station it houses not only our offices but also a thriving tech hub for incubator and start up businesses in the digital and creative industries sector.

The WeWork model proved pre-pandemic in London that there is an appetite from occupiers for flexible space on flexible terms. Our clients are telling us that this undoubtedly presents further opportunities for Leeds and other regional cities for those developers and investors who want to bring their innovative and creative take on the modern office to our local market.

All of us in the real estate sector and beyond need to work collaboratively and collectively together to build on all of the good work that has been done already. That way Leeds will continue to attract and retain the investment and talent it deserves.