Leeds plans TV, film studio as creative sector booms

Leeds City Council said on Tuesday the old Polestar Petty printworks on Whitehall Road has been identified as the location for a new world class TV and film studio.

“With increasing demand for more space to support the flourishing creative sector in the city, Leeds City Council is working with partners to bring forward a new TV and film studio to more than double the amount of usable TV and film space,” said the council.

The TV and film sector is expanding quickly in Leeds following recent announcements by Channel 4 and Sky of relocations to the city.

At a meeting of the council’s executive board on Tuesday July 23, members will be asked to approve proposals to move forward with the large-scale site “which could support up to six new studios and bring wider economic benefits to the city through new jobs and further investment in this area.”

It is proposed that the council takes a head lease of the property from Caddick Group and that the council sub-lets the property to Versa Studios, which owns or manages studios across the country via its All Studios company.

Versa will link up with existing Leeds studio operator Prime Studios which will play an instrumental role operating and managing the studio complex.

The site is in a key location between the main film and TV hub in Leeds on Kirkstall Road and the South Bank, which is already home to over 500 creative and digital businesses.

It is just 15 minutes from the new Channel 4 headquarters.

Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “This investment is a game-changing moment for the film and TV sector in Leeds.

“The sector has expanded significantly in recent years, so there is a real demand for more studio space to allow the industry to grow.

“The council is supporting this by bringing forward a number of new facilities such as the Engine House and the new studio.

“Not only will the new space be of huge benefit to the sector, but it will also create a number of new jobs and bring further investment to the city.

“In the South Bank we have seen growth in businesses in the creative and digital sector.

“The addition of these two new sites further underlines the commitment and appetite to continue this growth.”

Johnny Caddick, director at Caddick Group, said: “As a Yorkshire born and bred business, Caddick Group is thrilled to be working closely with Leeds City Council to transform what was a derelict site into a new media hub that will help support Channel 4’s relocation to the city.

“From cities across the globe we can see how the creative industries are helping drive growth, support regeneration and create new high value employment opportunities and that is a lesson we are applying to both the Polestar Petty site and our new SOYO neighbourhood.”

Caddick has also secured Opera North as a tenant in a separate 9,000 sq ft. former warehouse on the Polestar site, which sits just 30 metres away from where the new studio space will be.

Opera North will use the space for storage and rehearsals.

Ben Hepworth, managing director at Prime Studios, said: “This is a ground-breaking development that will transform the film and TV production landscape in Leeds and we are delighted that Leeds City Council is working with Prime Studios to drive forward our ambitious plans.

“The large scale city centre studio development is vital to the continued growth of the local industry and means that for the first time, Leeds will have a world class studio offer that will firmly establish the city as a leading centre for international production.

“This is an incredible era for the screen industries in the UK, with film and TV spend reaching over £3.1 billion last year and the creative industries as a whole growing at twice the rate of the UK’s economy.

“The film and TV industries in Yorkshire have been invigorated in recent years, with Channel 4’s decision to locate their national HQ in Leeds further cementing our position as one of the most exciting and fastest growing out of London production hubs.”

Screen Yorkshire CEO Sally Joynson said: “It’s no secret that Yorkshire’s studio offering has not been of the scale or quality that’s needed to operate in an increasingly competitive market, so this is a really important and most welcome development.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.