Blog Author: John Morgan, Director

Going from strength to strength, Leonard Design have witnessed UKREiiF expand significantly in the last three years. With many attendees joining the fold in fear of missing out thanks to fantastic media coverage, both from UKREiiF and attendees. Furthermore, the city of Leeds has been a perfect venue, setting a strong example of catching each investment cycle, delivering great retail, student accommodation and ongoing university growth.

In an industry full of people constantly on the move and keeping feverishly busy, UKREiiF has become a haven to stop, meet, discuss and reflect.

Each year I have had the privilege to speak on a great panel. My inaugural year was with BWB Group and the brilliant Steve Wooler and Joshua Dickerson. Prior to our talk the BWB team invited the panel out for dinner to ensure we all got to know each other. This ensured a true chemistry between us before we got up in front of the audience. This small gesture allowed our panel to have a natural and engaging conversation, avoiding any awkward silences or scripted responses.

This year, again, I sat on a great panel, the marquee was packed out with guests and I would love to think that they were all there to hear my words of wisdom. However, I know it was to hear from the newly appointed East Midlands Mayor, Claire Ward, attending her first major development and investment event. But this is the beauty of UKREiiF, giving attendees opportunity to discover new people/companies.

Leonard Design work all over the UK and can see the impact of strong local authority and regional leadership on investment and development.

A bustling shopping plaza at night with vibrant lights illuminating the area. The entrance to the Westfield shopping center, masterplanned by Leonard Design, is prominent, with people walking and mingling in the open space. Modern buildings and storefronts line the walkway, adding an urban feel.
Westfield Stratford City masterplan

From the early days of Leonard Design working with Sir Robin Wales and Kim Bromley-Derry CBE DL on our Westfield Stratford City Masterplan at the Queen Elizabeth Park and with a true focus of collaboration with John Burton OBEto ensure that genuine local jobs were created and decision making to ensure a successful legacy. Walking the Queen Elizabeth Park today it is clear to see that clarity of leadership set this all on the right track to continue even as different developers move into invest.

More recently in Sheffield, Nalin Seneviratne instructed David Leonard and the teams at Leonard Design and Arup to create the Heart of the City Masterplan. Nalin then had the vision to bring in a “Development Manager,” Queensberry , not a “Developer” to ensure delivery of the Heart of the City Masterplan. Which again, a walk of the masterplan today, the ripple effects can be seen across the city as the next wave of investment comes in to the city with Kate Josephs CB leadership and Urban Splash expanding their investment in the city to deliver the final piece in our Heart of the City Masterplan.

Aerial view of a densely populated urban area with a variety of buildings, streets, and green spaces. The cityscape includes modern and traditional architecture designed by Leonard Design and is illuminated by sunlight. A circular plaza is visible near the bottom-right corner.
Sheffield Heart of the City masterplan

In Greater Manchester and the West Midlands we have experienced first-hand how Andy Burnham and Andy Street have collaborated with surrounding towns in their regions and the city to align agendas and given clarity to investors to drive regeneration and the perception is that “the money has poured in”.

And now this opportunity exists in my home city of Nottingham – I know I live in Rushcliffe, but as we all know the small city boundary does not reflect the number of people who feel that they “live in Nottingham” and my love of Derby where I had the privilege to spend 5 years of my life delivering £340M of investment into the city collaborating with Dr John Forkin MBE DL and the brilliant team at Marketing Derby.

In this year’s pre panel meeting, East Midlands Mayor Claire Ward spoke with passion and clarity about the region and the region needs a mayor to create the true collaboration to deliver the benefit of devolution to the region.

Thank you to Megan Powell Vreeswijk and the brilliant team at Invest in Nottingham for inviting me to sit on the UKREiiF panel and to everyone who gave me feedback afterwards. Also, to all those with challenging questions put to me! Anyone who knows me, knows I love to speak positively about the opportunity for the city which has missed out on (at least) 2 development investment cycles.

Leonard Design director John Morgan

Will Claire Ward, Homes England and the brilliant regional private sector help us in the East Midlands to catch this development cycle? I am the eternal optimist and genuinely believe that the lack of investment to date means that there is a lot of opportunity in Nottingham (and still plenty of opportunity in Derby too). In many cities, the “easy sites” have all been developed; we still have, comparatively, plenty of the “easy sites” to go at. So, feel free to DM me, it would be a pleasure to host you in the city and show the scale of the opportunity.

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