In 2014, the UK was announced to be the host of the European Capital of Culture in 2023, ahead of the EU referendum. Candidates included Leeds, Dundee, Nottingham, Milton Keynes and Belfast. The preparation of these extensive bids over the last couple of years has cost Leeds £1 million over the past four years – £200,000 provided by the city council and £800,000 from private funders. However, ahead of the bid submission deadline, the European Commision that directs the scheme, wrote in a letter to the British Government that the UK’s hosting of the cultural scheme was to be ‘discontinued’ as a result of the Brexit decision as reported by Politico Europe.
Three non-EU countries have previously held the title – Reykjavik, Iceland, in 2000, Stavanger in Norway in 2008 and Istanbul, Turkey in 2010. Therefore the question arose as to why the UK was to be stripped of its new title. But with Theresa May’s decision to pursue a hard Brexit strategy, the UK will consequently leave the European Economic Area (EEA) and the single market. This seems to be the primary factor causing the cancellation of the UK’s hosting. This became evident when it was reported that the letter to the British government cited EU regulation 445/2014/EU – stating that only members of the EEA and countries which are candidates to join the EU can participate.
The city council and private business supporting the bid will lose out on business created by being named the Capital of Culture. You only need to look as far as Liverpool to see the seismic impact the status of the scheme has on cities. While presenting the city of Liverpool as contemporary and multifaceted, it also had an extensive economic impact on the city; benefiting from more than £750 million and a 34% increase in tourists.
Leeds was expected to see similar benefits if it were to win the title. A successful bid was predicted to attract national as well as international funding – a catalyst for the growth and development of the city. With plans for the regeneration of the city’s South Bank and a vast brownfield development, this would have seen a reconnection between the city centre and surrounding residential communities in the South. This being one of the largest development areas of its type in Europe. The urban development of the city was predicted to create up to a further 35,000 jobs.
David Aspin, owner of Munroe K and CEO of White Rose Office Park commented:
“As a champion of Leeds and the Northern Powerhouse it is a bitter blow for all involved that the City of Culture bid has been brought to a premature end. All involved with the bid should be very proud of what was achieved, and Leeds will no doubt have benefited from these efforts already. In spite of this setback, I’m sure the city will pick itself up, dust itself off and look to what I’m sure will be a bright future.”
Although Leeds has lost out culturally and economically, the rejection of its bid has been confirmed, so we must look to the future.
Central London office space construction is set to drastically slow as a result of the Brexit vote. Alongside the incomparable prices of London property, global investors are increasingly looking for office spaces outside of the capital at reasonable prices. As the future of London’s commercial development remains ambiguous, this creates an opportunity for Northern developers to profit from investors looking for cheaper property and office spaces. While Leeds has experienced this setback, the future still looks bright for the city’s urban development.
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