Leeds lies at the centre of Yorkshire's industrial heartland, with Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield and Pontefract in close proximity. In fact, looking at a map of the urban sprawl, you could be forgiven for thinking that these towns are almost one. This is not the case, however, and Leeds maintains an individual identity.
It is a vibrant commercial centre, with extensions to the M1 and M62 motorways and a modern airport putting it within easy striking distance of most parts of the country. In recent years, it has developed a thriving hotel and restaurant scene.
"Leeds is a bit like Manchester. It's gone from having hardly any restaurants and bars a few years ago to a point now where there are almost too many," says Trevor Shelley, director of leisure property consultant Shelley Sandzer. "There is a danger that the leisure market is reaching saturation point," he adds.
According to Shelley, there are nine leisure pitches in Leeds. The most prominent is the Light on Albion Street, an HBOS-funded development in the city centre, which has attracted operators such as Tiger Tiger, offering its mix of contemporary restaurant, lounge, bar and night club.
Just a few roads south is Greek Street, which offers about 10 A3-5 sites at a cost of about 30 per sq ft. "Home-from-home" bar-restaurant concept Living Room opened there in August 2003.
Leeds is not without its own urban regeneration programme, either. The 110m Clarence Dock site, being developed by Crosby Homes in conjunction with architect Carey Jones, offers 500,000sq ft of leisure space.
Leeds attracts a large incoming leisure population from the surrounding area and, although there is a predominance of 18- to 24-year-olds in the city because of the university, this doesn't make the spend per person particularly low. "It's a surprisingly affluent area of the country," says Shelley.
He says that customers in Leeds are conservative and, while they welcome innovative operators such as Living Room, they don't want anything too radical. Developments of the traditional restaurant and bar go down best.
Shelley believes that the turning point for Leeds came in 1996 when luxury department store Harvey Nichols opened in the Victoria Quarter in the city.
<25A0> Report by Forbes Mutch