University of Leeds Acquires Key Gateway 45 Plot to Host Large-Scale Research & Experimental Facilities

Aire Valley Land LLP, the joint venture between Harworth Group plc and Evans Property Group, has sold the 10-acre ‘North plot’ at its Gateway 45 Leeds development to the University of Leeds to create space to collaborate with industry on major research initiatives. The facility will be home to the University’s Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration, to be co-located with planned HS2 Rolling Stock Depot to create a ‘thriving hub’ for future engineers.

The Institute for High Speed Rail and System Integration (“Institute”) will bring a ‘whole system’ approach to high speed rail planning, design, construction and manufacturing.  It will train postgraduate engineers through new MSc courses and PhDs, including a new MSc course on Railway Engineering and Project Management, and a variety of new PhD opportunities to ensure a pipeline of skilled professionals for the industry.

Its co-location with HS2’s eastern leg Phase 2b Rolling Stock Depot on the Gateway 45 site – a facility that will enable 24-hour maintenance of the brand new high-speed trains, which will revolutionise rail travel and play a crucial role in rebalancing Britain’s economy – is considered essential to the success of both facilities.  The equipment, facilities and expertise within the Institute will create a UK centre of excellence, equipped to lead on the research and development needs for global industry partners including advanced technology development and testing, digital engineering and transport policy and economics.

Taken together, both of these facilities will make Leeds and the region a global centre for advanced rail and high speed technology, further strengthening the Leeds City Region economy.  The Institute of High Speed Rail Technology and System Integration is expected to attract significant inward investment and jobs to Leeds City Region, with the Rolling Stock Depot also expected to create up to 125 skilled jobs, building on HS2’s commitment to create 30,000 new jobs and 2,000 apprentices during the life of the project.

Professor Lisa Roberts, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation at the University of Leeds, said:

“The new advanced testing facilities as part of the University’s Institute, alongside HS2’s new rolling stock depot, are a significant step forward for UK high speed rail capability. They position Leeds City Region as a global centre for high speed rail research and development, so we’re working closely with HS2 to ensure our facilities align with its needs and those of industry, so all sides can deliver for the country.”

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said:

“University of Leeds’ investment in its Institute for High Speed Rail and its co-location with HS2 is a game changer for the UK, the city and Leeds City Region.  It will be world leading in its field and cement the UK’s position as a global leader in rail technology.  The Institute will support the Council’s Inclusive Growth Strategy, which aims to give young people in Leeds the opportunity to develop the modern skills employers need in 21st Century Britain.”

Mark Thurston, CEO of HS2 Ltd, said:

“HS2 is driving investment and growth up and down the country, and I’m delighted to see that Leeds is harnessing every opportunity that the project brings. We have always said that HS2 is much more than just a railway and this is another great example of the role it will play in rebalancing Britain’s economy and creating a highly skilled workforce for the future.”

The site will also include the University of Leeds’ Centre for Infrastructure Materials, created to support one of the key foundations of the UK’s Industrial strategy. It will develop and test the long-term impact of changing conditions on the wide range of materials used to construct built environments around the world.

The Gateway 45 is adjacent to Junction 45 of the M1 that extends to 166 acres and has outline planning consent for 2.64 million sq ft of commercial space.  Aire Valley Land LLP has set spent the past four years preparing the site for development, including completing a £7.5 million infrastructure and ground works programme for the entire site using a loan facility from the Leeds City Region.  Leeds City Council opened its 1,000 space Park & Ride facility at the site in June 2017, providing commuters with a 15 minute bus link to Leeds City Centre.  Aire Valley will also be promoting the remaining plots for a range of commercial uses, including manufacturing and logistics.

James Pitt, Development Director at Evans Property Group, commented:

“The University of Leeds is exactly the sort of high-value occupier we envisaged when we originally masterplanned Gateway 45.  AVL LLP’s focus now is supporting the University to get on-site as quickly as possible in order for the benefits of their world-class facility to rapidly come forward.”

Ian Ball, Executive Director of Income Generation at Harworth Group plc, added:

“This fantastic deal sets the tone for other high-value manufacturing and logistics development at Gateway 45 to come forward.  With HS2’s Rolling Stock Depot to be located adjacent to the University’s facility and Leeds Council’s Park & Ride already in operation, AVL LLP will now promote the site’s remaining plots to relevant end users to add to the thousands of jobs already delivered in the Aire Valley Enterprise Zone.”