HS2 to Go Ahead in Full

Earlier this week (beginning February 10th) Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that HS2 will go ahead in full. This is big news for a multi-billion pound project that only a couple of weeks earlier looked destined for a write off. Albeit at an almost unreal cost (estimated at £307m per mile), HS2 is due to transform connectivity in the UK. Joining up with a separate project called Northern Powerhouse Rail, together these two infrastructure projects are set to revolutionise transport in the UK, especially in the north of England.

The ‘HS2 Effect’ is a term thrown around property investment circles referring to house price rises in those areas where HS2 is planned to pass through. For example, Birmingham saw a 14% house price rise in just two years according to Knight Frank. We’re expecting to see similar growth acceleration in other areas, particularly Leeds which is already set to benefit from projected 21.6% regional growth.

With that said, we’ve put together some essential information on the HS2 project in general.

So, what is HS2? Following the success of HS1 (better known as the Channel Tunnel rail link), HS2 (High Speed 2) is an ambitious and exciting project that will vastly improve connectivity throughout England. Rail-users will be able to traverse the country at speeds of up to 250mph, resulting in reduced travel times and more convenient routes. The first stage will see a direct service built between London and Birmingham, a journey that will drop from 1 hour 24 minutes to approximately 50 minutes, with estimated completion in 2026. This means that there is still time for property investors to get ahead of the market if they haven’t already, or become an early adopter for better returns.

After completion of phase one, the line will be extended further to reach Manchester (reducing the journey time from London to 1 hour and 8 minutes – a saving of one hour) and Leeds (with a new journey time of 1 hour 22 minutes from London – saving the traveler 50 minutes). This is planned to finish in 2032-33 and will link up with existing lines and railway improvements to spread its reach even further, including to Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland. The proposed Northern Powerhouse rail will run between Liverpool and Hull, and the Midlands Engine proposals will go between Coventry and Bristol. By the time that the whole project is done, it is expected that almost half of the UK population will have access to HS2 services.

This improved access is expected to stimulate mobility across the country, taking the focus away from the South and helping to distribute the wealth away from the capital. With the cost of property and general living costs being inflated in the current commuter belt, people working in London are having to move further out to areas that they can afford and enduring daily commutes of two hours each way are not unusual. When the high-speed railway is up and running, this will drastically expand the number of desirable areas for working people and it will give people more choice about the places in which they live and work. There will be an increased demand for accommodation in the towns and cities along the route and young professionals make ideal tenants. Having easy access to more job markets could also serve to discourage people from getting on the property ladder, instead preferring to stick with the flexibility that renting brings. It is not uncommon to spend a few years in a place whilst deciding whether or not to put down more permanent roots, and when that happens there will be other tenants waiting to take their place.

Train travel should improve on the whole, even on lines that aren’t directly affected, since the new high speed tracks will relieve the pressure on some of the busiest routes. Despite projections of the railway removing 9 million journeys off the roads each year, it is still expected that the trains will be less crowded and more comfortable for passengers. This may prompt people to begin commuting when they have previously lived and worked locally, thus increasing the pool of potential renters.

Although they will make up the bulk of users, commuters are not the only reason the HS2 is good news for investors. The communities directly affected by the development are also experiencing a boost. It is estimated that there will be a total of 500,000 extra jobs created, including the construction workforce of 10,000 that are currently working across 250 locations to complete the first stage. Of this, there are approximately 2000 apprentices that are learning a valuable trade and the works have so far been delivered with involvement from 2000 businesses – 99% of which are UK based.  There will be a further 20,000 employed in the build and 3000 staff members to keep it running smoothly once it opens. The extra wealth created by the increased employment will benefit the local economy further; more good news for investors in the area.

It is estimated that every £1 that goes in to the HS2 project will see a return of £2.30. There are already vast regeneration schemes planned or underway in HS2 cities, with local councils intent on making the most of the opportunities that HS2 will bring. Projections state that 90,000 new homes will be built, with Leeds alone planning on doubling the size of their city centre through a mixture of residential, commercial and leisure. Not only are cities working on improving the more tired areas, they are also investing in the protection and enhancement of their cultural gems – such as the famous Liverpool docks which are facing exciting protective redevelopment. Many of these projects are anchored to the HS2 growth and have been attracting impressive levels of foreign investment. So whilst the HS2 may attract new residents, the ongoing improvements will ensure that those residents stay and make their homes there.

As demand is building, now is the ideal time for potential new investors to take the leap and be ready to cash in when the time comes. If you are an established property investor who already has a presence then you are well placed to reap the benefits so now is the time to sit back and let your investments do the work for you. Either way, property investors are set to cash in on the HS2 developments.

£150 Million Terminal Building Coming to Leeds Bradford Airport

Northern England’s connectivity could get even better, with Leeds Bradford Airport submitting fresh plans to construct a ‘state-of-the-art’ terminal that aims to improve passenger experience and support economic growth in the region, all while retaining an extremely high level of environmental efficiency.

The plans, due to be submitted in April this year, detail a replacement of an existing scheme and the current building with a three-floor terminal on a new site. If approved, Leeds Bradford Airport will become home to an incredible 34,000 sq mt. terminal, with improved shopping, restaurants, bars, and interiors. With an improved location near to a proposed rail link, the efficiency of passenger transfer can be greatly improved. One of the most significant outcomes of this investment is that Leeds Bradford Airport will be able to meet its net zero carbon emissions target by 2023.

12 years ago Leeds Bradford Airport was sold off by the council in the hope that a private company would be better placed to inject cash into the site and improve services. With the current terminal dating back to 1965, it’s probably about time for a revamp. The owners, AMP Capital, already agreed to a £12 million cash injection, but the airport’s Chief Executive, Hywel Rees was unsatisfied with those plans and went back to the board of AMP to negotiate a new plan and investment figure – £150 million.

Hywel Rees is quoted as saying, “This proposal is not about growing beyond our predicted capacity; it is about meeting the same demand in a more efficient way, with a smaller environmental footprint. We’re confident that a vision will deliver an airport building that is better placed to support out region’s economic growth and become one that Yorkshire can be proud of.”

The airport currently sees 4 million passengers a year, and the expected increase over the next 10 years is 3 million.

The plans are an exciting announcement for both Leeds and Bradford, who will be welcoming greater connectivity and an updated airport. There is an acknowledged need to improve infrastructure around travel to and from the site. Hopefully, this large cash injection is the beginning of an overall rethinking of transportation around the airport. An extra 3 million people per year using Leeds Bradford Airport will certainly place pressure on the roadways.

This initiative to revamp Leeds Bradford Airport falls nicely within the Northern Powerhouse Initiative, aimed at reducing the economic gap between the North and the South. Making this airport a centre of global connectivity is an exciting prospect for the region, and foreshadows future prosperity.


Here at Aspen Woolf, we have a range of investment property options across Northern England, with a special focus on the high growth cities of Leeds and Bradford. Property experts Savills recently published forecast that estimate Yorkshire property prices to grow by 21.6% over the next five years. Have a look at our options to find out how you can capitalise on northern growth.

How is Leeds becoming a 21st century city?

A growing population and a focus on major industries has set aside Leeds as an unofficial capital city of the North. Regeneration is now propelling Leeds into the future with a number of projects designed to firmly establish the city as a major player in the UK’s economy.

Statistics published last year by the Centre for Cities shows how Leeds has the 3rd quickest growing city centre in the UK between 2002 and 2015. This is a clear mark of how the city is has improved as an urban centre in the last decade. It’s an encouraging statistic too, because it suggests the brain drain phenomenon – where local talent moves away – is not affecting this city. Leeds is a place for families and generations to grow.

Leeds also has one of the youngest populations in the UK, thanks in part to a large student population, but also as a hotbed of employment opportunities for ambitious young professionals. Financial and business services account for 38% of the total Leeds’ output and other key sectors include retail, leisure and the visitor economy, as well as construction, manufacturing and the creative and digital industries – this latter one being a big attraction for the younger generation of workers.

What is it that young professionals like In the 21st century,? A vibrant and stylish urban environment with plenty of opportunity to enjoy time outside of the 9-5. The Yorkshire Post recently published an article indicating Leeds’ ambition, and need, to become a “24-hour economy” in order to retain a thriving city centre. The key to this is a combination of ambitious city centre residential developments combined with high quality jobs in the service sector. This will drive further investment and regeneration into the area and help to cement Leeds as a prime example of urban living.

One of the best examples of regeneration in Leeds, in fact in Europe currently, is the South Bank project – worth over £350 million and introducing 8,000 new homes and 35,000 new jobs. We’ve written about this incredibly ambitious before – you can have a look at our article here – but the main takeaway is that this project is set to double the economic output to the city centre and will perhaps be the largest contribution to creating a modern urban lifestyle in Leeds.

Here are 5 of our top picks, demonstrating how Leeds is changing for modern times:


1. The Holbeck Urban Village

A site of former industrial buildings on the South Bank has undergone an impressive regeneration, modernizing the area yet retaining a sense of past by protecting Listed Buildings. Today, Holbeck hosts about 400 businesses, mainly in the creative and digital sector, and is home to a population of between 600 and 1,000 people in its 15 hectare area.

2. Leeds Bradford Airport Upgrades

A new £12 million terminal building is set to add more facilities, space, retail and food and beverage options to the airport. The changes to boost efficiency and cut delay times, while bringing the airport in line with the city’s broader regeneration, and supporting overall economic growth.

The plans are part of the ‘Route to 2030 Strategic Development Plan’, aiming to increase passenger numbers from four million to seven million by 2030.

3. Innovation at Leeds’ University

A new centre for innovation at Leeds University has opened at a cost of £40 million. Business, health, engineering, data and environmental disciplines are now brought together in the new 6,684 square metre Nexus building, including 60 spacious offices, 12 purpose-built laboratories, 11 meeting rooms and a 120-seat lecture theatre all spread across 6 floors. A £13.5 million fitness and wellbeing centre offers a welcome break from intense research and study.

4. Refurbishment of the Leeds Playhouse

Who doesn’t like a play? The Leeds Playhouse, formerly known as the West Yorkshire Playhouse, has recently undergone a £15.8 million development. Many major changes have been made including redisgning the whole façade to orientate the theatre towards the city, providing better access to the 750 seat Quarry theatre. The new Playhouse also includes a third studio space – the Bramall Rock Void – as well as a new restaurant, café and bar, and improved public spaces.


5. A new icon on the skyline

As an example of prime real estate near the South Bank development, we’ve chosen the fantastic Springwell Gardens development, the next residential project to rival the likes of Candle House and become a part of the ever growing cityscape emerging in Leeds. With a sail like façade and terraced roof gardens, this development of luxury apartments is the renters dream. Strategically located on the important Whitehall Road, home to the new Government Hub, Yorkshire Post, NHS Digital and the HMRC, Springwell Gardens’ location makes it close to many amenities. Leeds Train Station, the city centre and the new £350 million CEG Holbeck urban village Southbank development are just 10 minutes’ walk away.

Lowdown On Leeds – London of the North?

Millennium Square & Civic Hall

Leeds is one of the most well-known cities in the North of England and an increasingly popular place to live and work. The history of Leeds spans more than 800 years, and a whole host of fascinating things have occurred in and around the city. Let’s see what draws so many people to the West Yorkshire city right now. Looking for an investment opportunity in Leeds? Visit our property investment in Leeds section to see what’s available now!

Things to do in Leeds

Some of Leeds’ most popular tourist attractions include Millennium Square, which is found just outside the railway station and is a short walk away from the City Museum, Civic Hall and the Town Hall. A large number of events take place in the square each year, with high-profile sports events playing on the big screen and an outdoor ice rink welcoming skaters in the school holidays. The Royal Armouries Museum is one of Leeds’ best-known attractions and is home to military hardware that dates back hundreds of years.

Music, theatre and TV

The city is also known for its cultural scene, with key venues including the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Grand Theatre, the 02 Academy, the Brudenell Social Club and the First Direct Arena. Leeds Festival takes place every August Bank Holiday Weekend at Branham Park, with a number of lower-key festivals also occurring throughout the summer. Soap fans should be left mesmerised by the Emmerdale Studio Experience, which was made open to the public a few years ago. The indoor sets are based at the ITV complex on Kirkstall Road, though you can also stroll through the outdoor set at the Harewood Estate around three miles away.

Lowdown On Leeds - London of the North? Aspen Woolf

Image Credit: Francisco Perez

Shopping in Leeds

The Kirkgate Market can be found in a charming Edwardian building in the centre, although some stalls are now located outside due to its growth over the years. The market is home to 200 stalls, including places to stock up on clothes, jewellery, local produce, hardware and cuisine from around the world. The Victoria Quarter is what has helped Leeds become known as “the Knightsbridge of the North”. The quarter is one of various elegant shopping arcades that you’ll see around the city, with brands including Harvey Nicholls, Louis Vuitton and Vivienne Westwood all having a presence here. Even if you’re not shopping for high-end clothing and accessories, you can still admire the stunning architecture whilst enjoying a latte or two at one of the various cafes and restaurants.

Victorian grandeur

Shoppers looking for something a little out of the ordinary are well catered for by the Corn Exchange. This circular building also dates from the Victorian period and was once a farmers market. Today, it’s a great place to purchase all manner of strange and wonderful accessories as well as musical instruments, clothing and goods for the home. Known as a quirky, ‘alternative’ place to shop, the Corn Exchange is home to far more independent retailers than well-known brands.

Nightlife in Leeds

Leeds also has a great reputation when it comes to cuisine and is home to a large number of authentic South Asian restaurants and acclaimed Italian, Japanese, Thai and British-orientated eateries. Partygoers are well catered for across the city centre, but one of the biggest hubs for nightlife is Call Lane, which plays host to a diverse mix of electrifying clubs and bars. Leeds has recently been tipped for the highest growth in house prices across the UK, with JLL predicting growth of 17.1% by 2023, a figure that could see it leapfrog Manchester and Liverpool. Leeds offers a diverse mix of housing, including luxury city centre flats, sprawling rural homes, terraced, semi-detached and detached properties, catering for a wide range of budgets. Leeds is also gaining a greater reputation as an exciting place to do business. New data from Data Commons for UK tech found that investment into the tech companies of Leeds broke Northern investment records in 2018, with the figure standing at £108.8m. It’s also possible to reach London from Leeds within as little as 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Quirky facts about Leeds

The oldest flying aeroplane in Britain was built in Leeds. The Blackburn Type D was built by Robert Blackburn today, and you can still see it in action today, albeit in Bedfordshire. The deal to bring Cluedo to the masses was signed in Leeds when games maker Waddington was based there, eventually being made available in 1949. Another fact you might be surprised to learn is that the second ever Ryder Cup actually took place in the Moortown area of Leeds back in 1929.

Steeped in history

Marks & Spencers actually started life in Leeds, at Kirkgate Market. The brand was first launched as a penny bazaar stall by Michael Marks, who collaborated with Tom Spencer to develop the business. The city also plays host to the final remaining gas lit cinema in the UK, the Hyde Park Picture House. This venue celebrated its 100th birthday in 2014 and retains a number of charming original features. The city also has the oldest continuously operation public railway in the world. You can still ride on the Middletown Railway today, some 261 years after it was first opened to transport coal. The city was also home to hippos at one point – in 1984, the bones of a hippo were discovered in Armley, with experts suggesting they could date back some 130,000 years. Today, the bones can be seen in the Leeds City Museum. The first black player to play in an FA Cup final did so in the colours of Leeds United FC. Albert Johanneson was on the losing side at Wembley as Leeds lost 2-1 to Liverpool.

Leeds’ cultural heritage

The city has also been home to a considerable number of legendary authors, including Alan Bennett, Barbara Taylor Bradford and Tony Harrison. J.R.R. Tolkien was even based in Leeds at one point. The Lord of the Rings author was the youngest professor at the University of Leeds in the early 1920s. The first ever motion pictures were shot by Louis Le Prince in 1888, where he captured footage of the Leeds Bridge and Oakwood Grange.

Aspen Woolf looks at the most expensive versus the cheapest property in Leeds

For Sale Signs - Aspen Woolf

The North of England is having a resurgence in terms of regeneration, property development and a growing job market. There are more reasons than ever to invest in property in cities such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, led by the Northern Powerhouse initiative.

Particularly since the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016, property investment across the UK has experienced a sea change. More and more investors are turning away from London and the South East as economic and political uncertainty shake a previously unwavering property market and setting their sights further up north.

Property hotspot

Leeds has become a prime property hotspot, thanks to a steady stream of city-centre regeneration and funding, along with a solid and thriving job market. Add in a bustling city centre packed with all the amenities young professionals look for, and a strong student population, it’s not surprising that investment in Leeds is constantly increasing.

At Aspen Woolf, we keep an eye on all the property investment news across cities including Leeds and have examined recent sales to get a picture of the kinds of prices people can expect.

Variety of property

The cheapest residential property that completed in March this year sold for just £36,500. At the other end of the scale, the buyers of the most expensive property sold in March paid more than 26 times this price.

This shows the sheer variety of options for people looking for property in Leeds. Whether investors are searching for the perfect buy-to-let property, or families are looking to move into a larger house, there is a scale of pricing available that isn’t seen in regions further south.Land Registry figures

The figures from HM Land Registry for March 2018 show that some property investors paid a lot of money for truly stunning properties situated in the city’s suburbs, while other people sought out and found bargains closer to the city centre.

The most expensive home sold in March was a detached house in the Boston Spa area of Leeds. It was sold for an impressive £975,000, providing a stark contrast with the cheapest flat sold for just £36,500.

UK-wide, across the same period, more than 90,000 homes were sold. The most expensive residential property on record sold for £15 million and is located in the London suburb of Barnet. The cheapest of all went for £20,000 in County Durham. This provides a good scale to measure Leeds prices by.

Detached properties

A closer look at what buyers in Leeds secured for their money can be seen by detailing some of the sales below. As mentioned, the most expensive property was located in Boston Spa. For £975,000 the buyer enjoyed a five-bedroom detached house in this leafy suburb of Leeds. Next on the list was another five-bed detached property in Foxhill Drive, Leeds, which sold for £747,000.

Another five-bed detached family home, this time in the Adel area of Leeds, sold for £650,000 and a four-bed detached home in Boston Spa went for £521,555. A lovely four-bed home in the outlying Leeds village of Shadwell sold for £515,000 and another Adel four-bed detached went for £499,995.

Bargain buys

Turning towards the cheaper end of the market, the biggest bargain was the flat sold for £36,500 in the Hunslet area of Leeds. Another flat in Lower Wortley sold for £37,250 and a terraced two-bed home for £40,000 in Lascelles Place.

No matter what kind of property buyers are looking for, Leeds is a good place to look. From apartments close to the always improving city centre amenities, to large detached homes in green suburbs, the variety available is comparable to that in the South East, but for much more affordable prices.

Investment Property Price Growth For Leeds

Leeds City Skyline view

Property investment in Leeds is increasing, and a new report by property consultancy experts JLL reveals that it’s not going to slow down any time soon.

Average investment property prices in Leeds city centre will increase by 3.5% over the course of 2018, according to the New Housing Paradigm report. The outlook for the next five years is even more positive with expectations of strong price growth at an average of 3.7% per annum.

Proving its legitimacy as part of the Northern Powerhouse and a viable alternative for property investors now looking outside of London, the level of growth expected in Leeds is second only to that projected for Manchester.

Average Rents To Rise

Rents for apartments in Leeds city centre remained flat during 2017, but it’s predicted that they will increase by 3.5% by the end of this year. Again, over the next five years, it’s expected that they will increase by 3.5% every year.

Leeds is the standout market for investors to keep their eye on over the next few years, and housing markets across Northern England are going to be among the strongest too.

London Market Stagnating

This rise of the Northern Powerhouse comes at a time when London is losing its grip as the number one choice for property investors. Its housing market is starting to stagnate, while market growth in the south of the country has been slowly starting to stabilise thanks to high property prices deterring potential investors.

London is still a key market of course, but there is no doubt that the rising interest in property investment across the north is signalling the start of a new phase for the UK’s property market.

Infrastructure Investment

Anyone who has been keeping an eye on developments across Northern England will have seen extensive redevelopment and investment in key infrastructure. Excellent and improving travel links, a relatively buoyant job market and much more affordable housing than in the south of England, have all combined to turn people’s attention to the north.

There is also a marked rising demand in Leeds specifically for the ‘build-to-rent’ market. This is fuelled by the influx of young professionals eager to enjoy the benefits of living and working in a major city, as well as a stream of affluent students willing to pay for a high level of accommodation.

Build-To-Rent Market

There are currently 3,500 build-to-rent units in addition to the 2,000 private sale units sitting in the development pipeline, all due for completion relatively soon.

Historically, this rental demand has been under-served, and this new influx of build-to-rent units will satisfy the need. Manchester has seen this particular asset class perform extremely well, and it’s likely that Leeds will follow suit.

Over the next few years, we expect to see landlords and developers working to optimise this market model.