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China trips spark investor interest

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02 Dec 2015

Two leading Yorkshire developers whose schemes were included in an investment document which Chancellor George Osborne took to China told Insider's Northern Powerhouse Conference the trip has made a difference and sparked fresh interest from potential investors.

In September the Chancellor was joined by a host and business and civic leaders in showcasing a series of northern investment opportunities to Chinese businessmen in the ‘Northern Powerhouse Investment Pitchbook’.

Commercial Estates Group's (CEG) Kirkstall Forge scheme was one of those projects and David Hodgson, regional head of strategic development at CEG, told the conference that the trip had generated interest in the scheme, stating:

"As a result of that trip CEG has entertained a Malaysian contingent who visited Kirkstall and expressed a keen interest in the scheme. Also I believe officers at the council witnessed the opportunity to create a high-profile city centre quarter at Holbeck, something which has now been enhanced by this week's HS2 announcement.”

CEG is responsible for the delivery of Kirkstall Forge and also the Temple Quarter, which is the six-acre site adjacent to the Round Foundry and Leeds train station (and proposed HS2 station).

Hodgson said: "Our funding is sourced primarily from Scandinavia and we have built a significant property portfolio. We have the skills in Leeds, with great universities and the transport links now open things up further. It's a much more vibrant environment – good housing and good infrastructure. Part of our due diligence is engaging with councils and to explain the positives behind schemes. People are being a lot more cautious about where they are going to invest and in the North it’s not easy to do large scale house building. And there are only a limited amount of companies that want to build them.”

Leeds-headquartered Scarborough Group was also included in the Northern Powerhouse Investment Pitchbook for its Middlewood Locks project in Manchester.

Scarborough Properties’ joint venture partners come from China and Singapore and the company is currently working with a number of national and international institutions regarding debt financing and investment propositions. In September, it was announced that Hualing Industry and Trade Group will provide the investment needed to unlock three projects including Thorpe Park in Leeds (pictured below), Sheffield Digital Campus and Middlewood Locks.

Lee Savage, development director at Scarborough Properties said being included in the Chancellor’s trip to China was "helpful" and added: “The deal announced at the time was obviously already in progress. There is no doubt that national and local governments attention in these matters helps greatly with demonstrating confidence to investors.

"Transport is so important for property development. Developers want to know that the right infrastructure is in place. The successful local authorities are the ones that are engaging with investors. Construction price risk is an issue and we are working hard to deal with this at an early stage. Getting the right skilled people is an increasing problem. The middle-ground technologists, draughtspeople are the type of skills that we as an industry are struggling with. China is investing in Leeds and they want to do more, the appetite collectively is strong but they want to have the support from the public sector local authorities."