Those of you who know your Leeds history, will be aware how important engineering has been in the city.
Now Leeds Labour Council is looking to the future – with a bid for a new FE College which would be specifically devoted to engineering and construction skills – skills which would be essential to projects like HS2.
If the bid is successful, the new college would be part of the South Bank development – which is already one of the largest regeneration projects in Europe.
It would reposition Leeds as a leader once more in engineering developments.
Hunslet and Holbeck, along with other parts of Leeds, were major engineering centres in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Matthew Murray designed and built the first commercially viable steam locomotive south of the river, James Kitson manufactured locomotives at the Airedale Works.
So the proposals build on a great local tradition.
But they also look forward to a Leeds future – where Leeds would train the next generation of world-class engineers.
The college would have a UK-wide significance – ensuring we produce the skilled people needed for the next generation of infrastructure projects – including HS2.
The college would be part of the huge new regeneration project to the South of the river. It would be built on a four acre cleared brownfield site on Carlisle Road. Student housing currently abuts this site. There are plans, too, for more residential accommodation.
The proposal aims to ensure that Leeds capitalizes on all the opportunities HS2 would bring.
As Councillor Richard Lewis puts it:
“We want to see the people of Leeds and Yorkshire getting the benefits of HS2 early doors. Bringing the college here would create jobs and new opportunities for local people and will also help hugely to regenerate the whole of the South Bank area of the city.”
But this bid is about more than HS2.
As Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive member for leisure and skills pointed out:
“The college is not just about delivering HS2. Future projects coming through Network Rail and the West Yorkshire Plus Transport Fund, plus investments being made by other regions, would mean the college would be preparing the next generation of world-class engineers.”
Leeds City Regional Enterprise Partnership strongly supports the bid – which builds on Leeds position as a gateway to the North, and on the concentration of local employment in this area.
Leeds already attracts 34,000 overseas students – more than anywhere outside London. The council believes this institution could be a way of training our own young people, but also a magnet for students from abroad and for overseas companies.
The whole South Bank project is a sign of the imaginative planning which is remaking the future of Leeds – but in a way firmly in line with the city’s great past.