Leeds, West Yorkshire

Discover why Leeds was chosen as one of The Sunday Times Best Places to Live 2022 in their words.

Stroud, Gloucestershire

HS2 may have stopped short of Leeds, but it’s full-speed ahead for the city centre. While this West Yorkshire powerhouse has suburbs for every taste — and pocket — from trad-fave Horsforth to funky Chapel Allerton, respectable Roundhay and the mini-mansions of Adel and Alwoodley, urban nesters are heeding the siren call of LS1. Let’s put this in blunt Tyke terms. If you work in Leeds and want to live here, the city centre makes sense, especially if you’re young (under 30) or young-at-heart, with no need for a large garden or proximity to a choice of schools. 

Channel Four and Sky have also set up offices in central Leeds, bringing new employment possibilities to the 37,000 students at the four universities, along with established blue-chip and financial companies such as Deloitte, KPMG, Capita and HSBC.

It’s the pandemic that’s given Leeds new life. Younger residents who fled the city centre to WFH from their teenage bedrooms soon realised they missed the nightlife, the bars, entertainment and culture, including an Everyman cinema in Trinity Leeds.

At the cultural quarter on Quarry Hill, Leeds Playhouse, Northern Ballet, the Phoenix Dance Theatre and the BBC congregate opposite the bus station on New York Street. Plans for the LEEDS 2023 city-wide cultural festival (Gabby Logan, the Leeds-born TV sports presenter, is its chairwoman) involve creating a new National Poetry Centre in Leeds, spearheaded by Simon Armitage, the Huddersfield-born poet laureate.

Although Leeds does still bear the legacy of shoddy property schemes, the compact city centre  is now brimming with choice — student accommodation, owner-occupied apartments in period conversions, private rentals, plus build-to-rent schemes, such as Headline, on the site of the Yorkshire Post’s 1970s building on Wellington Street, where monthly rentals for a one-bedder start at £925. On the South Bank, at least 1,000 new homes are planned. 

Rianne Docteur, 25, a senior business development manager in marketing, came to Leeds to study sociology seven years ago, and stayed. She recently bought a townhouse in the Climate Innovation District, an ambitious 1,000-home sustainable scheme beside the River Aire, with her partner. “We love the city, there’s always something different going on with events like Light Night (an annual arts festival), Live at Leeds (a music festival) and local indie markets.”

In true millennial style, Docteur likes the fact that she doesn’t need to use her car every day. She reduces her carbon footprint by walking as much as possible: “I usually go running along the River Aire towards Woodlesford, the opposite way from town. It’s great having the city on your doorstep when you turn right at the bridge. However, if you head left — my usual running route — along the river past the Stourton Boathouse, it gets a lot more rural and scenic.” Who’d have thought it, eh?

High Street

You are within walking distance – or a £4/£5 five-minute Uber ride — of one of the most impressive collection of shops in the UK, including the only branch of John Lewis in Yorkshire after the 2021 closure of the Sheffield store.

There’s Harvey Nichols of course (for designer brands such as Givenchy, Burberry and Alexander McQueen), which took a lot of credit for reinventing Leeds. But really, it’s all about the trendy shopping centre Trinity Leeds, with 120 outlets, including The Botanist cocktail bar (killer combination? Pornstar martinis, £9.95 and lamb kofta kebabs, £13.75); clothing/homeware at Urban Outfitters; Damaged Society, stocking on-trend brands such as Vans, Dr Martens, Loungefly and the Ragged Priest; plus Curated Makers showcasing local artisans.

Not forgetting Trinity Kitchen — a cavernous industrial-chic space rotating six street food vendors every few weeks — the hang-out of choice of the under-30s.

The Corn Exchange is home to independent retailers, and Kirkgate Market, in its original Victorian building, sells fresh fruit, veg, meat, fish and deli products, with some traders offering online ordering and home delivery. For other quotidian needs, there’s a M&S Simply Food in the train station, a Sainsbury’s on The Headrow and a Morrisons in the Merrion Centre, plus a scattering of Sainsbury’s Locals, Tesco Expresses and Co-ops. However, considering the European headquarters of retail giant Asda is located on the South Bank, there are no large city centre supermarkets this side of the River Aire.

Connections

Getting around Leeds on public transport is a challenge; lots of buses, but no mass transit scheme as yet — although in October the government awarded the West Yorkshire Combined Authority £830 million for development. There are a dozen public EV charging points in the city centre between the inner ring road and the River Aire. 

There are direct trains from Leeds to Manchester (average journey time 1 hour and 12 minutes to Manchester Victoria) and London (average journey time 2 hours 41 minutes to London King’s Cross), plus regular services to York, Doncaster, Wakefield, Sheffield, Ilkley, Harrogate and well-connected Horsforth (8 minutes average journey time). 

Broadband

The very centre of Leeds is poorly served with 20-year-old ADSL2+, but as you move out to areas such as Hunslet and other parts of the city there is Virgin Media with Gigabit, full-fibre from CityFibre sold by Vodafone and plenty of Openreach full-fibre too.

Schools

Urban education has taken a massive leap forward since the outstanding (inspected in 2017) co-ed 11-16 Ruth Gorse Academy opened in 2014, drawing in students from across the city centre. Mount Mary’s RC High School, also a co-ed 11-16, in Richmond Hill to the east of the city centre, required improvement at the last Ofsted in 2017. The closest primary school to the city centre is St Peter’s C of E primary school (outstanding, 2011) on Cromwell Street, less than a mile from St James’s University Hospital.

The Grammar School at Leeds in Alwoodley, five miles from the city centre, is a leading independent co-ed for ages 3 to 18, and fourth in the Parent Power league of the North’s top independent schools (fees £5,157 a term from age 11).

Best Address

The Quays, on Concordia Street, behind the train station and within a cocktail stick’s distance of the Malmaison hotel, is one of the original Leeds city-centre schemes and still one of the most prestigious, with a riverside setting, balconies, concierge and basement parking. Records were broken last year with the sale of a 1,400 sq ft penthouse for £1.15 million.

Property prices

Average house price: £167,000 
Fall since 2020: 21% 
Source: Halifax using Land Registry Data

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Prices are correct as of April 2022.

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