It is not often that we get the chance as a city to decide on a major regeneration scheme on a really important site, but that is exactly what is happening on the south bank of the River Aire.
The South Bank Regeneration Initiative covers an area of land as big as 250 football pitches and according to the Council will “double the size of Leeds city centre.” Among the proposals being looked at are a new park and other public open spaces, a new station for HS2, improved public transport and proposals for 35,000 jobs and 4,000 much-needed new homes.
The type of development eventually chosen will not only have a huge impact on the area but will also be an important statement about the kind of city we want to be. I think it will be really important to have affordable family housing as part of the scheme and we must seize the opportunity to make this an exemplary low carbon and sustainable project.
The public consultation process is currently underway and the deadline for comments is 15 November 2016. Anyone who is interested in contributing thoughts and ideas can fill in the online version of the survey at www.southbankleeds.co.uk or you can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org
The announcement that OneSubsea, based in Stourton, is planning to lay off about two thirds of its workforce has come as a devastating blow to all the staff there. The company has been manufacturing hi-tech equipment for the oil and gas for nearly 60 years on the site, and the plan to end manufacturing means that around 600 highly-skilled jobs could go.
I remain in touch with both the union UNITE and the company, and there are a lot of questions the workers are asking especially as I understand that some of the work currently done in Leeds may transfer to other plants overseas.
The UK oil and gas industry has seen a huge number of job losses since the oil price collapsed as too much capacity chases too few customers, but I think the Government should be looking at what it can do to help the industry.
Finally, a bit of history. I was having a conversation the other day with someone about the famous 1936 Battle of Cable Street in which anti-fascists in East London stood up against Mosley’s Blackshirts – the 80th anniversary has just been celebrated – when I was reminded that South Leeds had its own Battle of Holbeck Moor a week before.
On 27 September 1936, Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists had decided to parade hundreds of Blackshirts in Calverley Street and then marched down to Holbeck. There, on the Moor, they were ‘greeted’ by a large crowd of protestors who sang the Red Flag to drown him out while some threw stones.
I should have been paying more attention because the eagle-eyed among you would no doubt point out that the ever-excellent South Leeds Life website made reference to the Battle of Holbeck Moor back in 2011. And the moral of this tale? Anything London can do, Leeds can do earlier.