Healing the north-south divide
8:58:22 5 July 2021
The City of Leeds has long intended to become the northern powerhouse that it once was. To this end, it awaits the advent of HS2 and is in the midst of a 10-year £3 billion regeneration project. Unfortunately, the project’s ambitions have been complicated by a large Victorian-era railway station and surrounding brownfield sites that have long served as a no-go barrier between the neglected south and the hitherto more affluent north. A historical challenge, it is infamous for being the graveyard of many a plan to right the wrong.
Undeterred, FreeState accepted a commission to create an experience masterplan for Network Rail and Leeds City Council’s ambition for a Destination Station capable of achieving three key objectives: one, create an attractive, relevant, and resilient destination in and of itself; two, become the magnetic force and therefore link between the regenerating Southbank and the hitherto more affluent north; and three, be the catalyst for – rather than barrier against – an inclusive economy, one that in activating space to the south seeks to help rebalance the city, without negatively impacting on the success of the north.
Bringing stakeholders to the table, employing a mix of traditional and digital research techniques, and utilising an infrastructure-light start-now, plan-long term approach, we delivered a feasibility study, an investigation report, a Station Campus vision, and are currently in the developed-design stage of the intervention, including planning and licensing, detailed design and specification, and staffing and operations. With all stakeholders joined at the hip and supercharged by its importance for the south, the three-year activation plan launches in July 2022.
Once up and running, we will continue to work on the project and are in talks with a view to taking on similar projects across the main client’s estate.
“In introducing a ‘start now plan
long term’ approach, FreeState
showed the way to healing
a century-long divide between
the north and the south.”
Principal Development Director