Upset and grief at UKREiiF

You might or might not have noticed, but UKREiiF – the UK Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum – came to town this month (21-23 May 2024).

This is a massive sprawling annual conference for the UK property industry, running since 2022 at Leeds Dock.
We – the 1,000 or so Leeds Dock residents – couldn’t fail but notice. It completely took over our neighbourhood, and cast long shadows over us. It’s growing each year, with 13,000 people attending this month – and they apparently want 16,000 next time.

It is certainly a big deal for Leeds. There are figures banded around that it puts £10-20 million into our local economy. Certainly during the conference, there was a hustle and bustle in the city. Hotels, bars and restaurants across the city centre were rushed off their feet. This is great, a boost when the hospitality industry is having such a hard time.

The event itself generates work and jobs for hundreds of others, in security, building, logistics, and other contract work. And it surely serves as an advert for Leeds, and Leeds Dock in particular – where there are plenty of empty office units – so maybe it will net the city and our estate new commercial tenants and income. Fair enough.

However. At what cost to those living here at Leeds Dock? Life is already tough enough. Like everyone, our living costs keep spiralling upwards.

Our rent and service charges have shot up in recent years. The cladding scandal – the result of shoddy practice and system failure across the property development sector – has cast a very long shadow, and a lot of stress for us all.

UKREiiF has simply added another layer of grief over that. It caused a storm of upset among many of the residents last year. And although there was some learning, and some improvements, it did so again this month.

The main walking routes through the estate were cordoned off and gated – and the large security team were utterly unpredictable in how they treated residents. Some were polite, and let us through – others were rude or even intimidating, and made us take long diversions simply to get to our own homes.

Parking and traffic were a nightmare. Communication with residents about changes and closures was highly inconsistent. Inconsiderate contractors made a lot of noise late at night and early on several mornings during set-up. Internet speeds for many of us seemed to have been reduced by the conference wifi system. A lot of litter and waste ended up in the river and dock.

And most symbolically for many of us, all the work to test and fix the dodgy cladding was put on hold. This is an ongoing battle – the same used to happen during filming for Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch.

It pushes our buttons more than anything else. And added to this was a dispute for many of us about emergency meeting points – we couldn’t get to these during the event, because they were fenced off. It seemed very much like we were on thin ice.

Overall, many of us felt unwelcome in our own community – like second class citizens, shoved aside in favour of an entitled industry who have done so much to screw up our lives and wellbeing, yet who are sitting pretty while we suffer and worry.

It felt like the city rolled over in deference to this event juggernaut – another example being the way the Brewery Wharf towpath gates were opened for the event, but are set to become closed again for those of us who live here. It’s not a good look.

We are not against outside events, and change more generally. But we want to live in a city and community that is enjoyable, attractive, and liveable – not one imposed upon and embattled. We want to be listened to, to be recognised, and to have a respectful mutual relationship with the institutions and businesses around us.

This dynamic and kind of conflict is not particular to Leeds Dock – communities finding themselves in conflict with institutions, big business, and the demands of the economy and wider society. But we all need to ask, and keep asking: how much are we willing to sacrifice to fulfil those?


This post was written by residents of Leeds Dock


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One Reply to “Upset and grief at UKREiiF”

  1. If only we had large ready made spaces for events, like an arena with an outdoor area, or a square that holds regular events in the City Centre… The waterfront is a nice area and I can see why it would be attractive to hold events like this there, but I can totally see why this is a problem for the residents and putting people’s safety at risk by pausing the cladding work and blocking emergency exits is not OK. I love the other side of Hunslet and whilst walking down the canal on the Monday of final set up, I was met with large groups of security just blocking the pavement. Not helped by the security fencing that was forcing people to single file when there was loads of space on the other side of the fence. There’s lots more suitable places to host this important money generator, I say move it.

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