Something special is brewing in the Bradford District

City Park illuminated at dusk

By Dave Baldwin

Thirteen years ago, in a godforsaken industrial estate in north east Scotland, BrewDog came howling into the world. Or so the legend goes on the corporate website. Today, the £1bn craft beer brewer claims to be the fastest growing food and drinks company in the UK and is breaking into international markets “like a shark on steroids”.

BrewDog is bringing its unique brand identity to Bradford with plans to open a branch in the city centre. The company is reported to be taking over the historic old Bradford Baths building in Randall Well Street – most recently home to the Brew Haus pub – with its exposed brickwork, steel beams and antique light fittings. 

The new opening will create around 20 new jobs across the bar, floor and kitchen in partnership with Red’s True Barbecue, another well-known catering brand. A recruitment notice from Brewdog announces its “mission to bring amazing craft beer and awesome barbecue to the people of Bradford”, adding “this is an amazing opportunity to build and inspire an amazing crew to rock BrewDog Bradford and help us drive the craft beer revolution!”

The company has thrived by setting itself apart from the drinks industry establishment. I remember BrewDog launching its Equity for Punks fundraising by driving an armoured vehicle to the Bank of England. Talk about parking your tanks on the lawn. Red’s True Barbecue had similarly bold arrival in the northern hospitality sector. The founders certainly livened up business awards events with their tattoos, beards and baseball caps.

Taken together, they will bring a breath of fresh air to Bradford’s West End. This part of town is undergoing substantial regeneration with the transformation of the former Odeon into a world-class entertainment venue. Bradford Live is set to open in the next 12 months and is expected to bring in crowds of 300,000 people per year with an annual calendar of 200-plus music, comedy and family entertainment events.

Developer NEC Group plans to put Bradford back on the map for major touring artists. Chairman Phil Mead said: “The venue has seen legends play there, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll see legends play there again.”

Across the way, St George’s Hall, recently restored to the tune of £9.5m, is attracting big names since its refurbishment – notably Paul Weller and John Lydon. The Modfather and Sex Pistol are playing on successive nights in November – that should be a lively 48 hours. 

Highlights at the Alhambra include the return of singer and actress Alexandra Burke, who opened Broadway shopping centre back in stirring fashion back in 2015. She is touring the new musical, My Best Friend’s Wedding. Is it too early to mention the Sleeping Beauty pantomime is now booking?

Other developments in the West End area include the £4.6m focus point of faith called Fountains Church in a former nightclub overlooking City Park. The Church of England has said the new church will have “a strong Bradford identity: young, entrepreneurial, ethnically and culturally diverse, and confident about holding out a clear religious offer and call in the public space”. The point being, the area is on the up.

Further up, the Top of the Town is in line for new investment after Bradford Council secured nearly £1m in external funding to begin delivery of the first phase of the 1,000-home City Village project. The new money, which will be spent on improving public areas along North Parade, is in addition to the £2m secured from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to restore key heritage buildings in the conservation area. And don’t forget the new Darley Street Market, a £21m food hall development which bursts into life this spring and the biggest single regeneration project at present.

This decade, the city centre will be transformed as developers commit to the district. In the One City Park project, Muse will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space. At Forster Square, Morgan Sindall will carry out a £17m redevelopment of the railway station with improved facilities, public spaces and better access to city centre for the benefit of commuters, shoppers and all those fun-seekers flocking to our revitalised West End.

Back to BrewDog. Its vision is to make everyone as passionate about craft beer as it is. Our mission is to make everyone as passionate about Bradford as we are. I can’t promise a “shark on steroids” but it’s pretty clear something special is brewing in our district.

Cleaning up the air in Bradford District

Traffic on Keighley Road in Shipley

By Dave Baldwin

Bradford is tackling the issue of air pollution head on. The local authority is consulting on plans to introduce a ‘clean air zone’. From October 2021, non-compliant vehicles like buses, coaches, taxis, heavy and light goods vehicles would pay a daily charge to drive into the zone. Private cars would be exempted from the charge. The council is also considering exemptions for small business owners, charities, school, emergency and other specialist vehicles.

Measures to reduce air pollution will have significant beneficial impacts on our children’s health. “Air pollution is harming young lungs. Let’s beat it and unleash our children’s true potential,” said the Breathe GB campaign group.

The shift to a low-carbon economy will be bumpy but will bring economic rewards, as well as environmental ones. According to Defra, cleaner air leads to increased productivity through improvements in public health, leading to reduced workplace absence, and the creation of an environment that is appealing to businesses and the public alike. Pollutants were estimated to be responsible for total productivity losses of up to £2.7 billion a year.

Any change causes uncertainty. But it also brings opportunity. The Government wants to make the UK a world leader in the goods and services focused on tackling air pollution, such as abatement technology, monitoring equipment and modelling skills. It estimates the low-carbon economy has the potential to generate up to £170bn in export sales by 2030. With our advanced manufacturing sector, Bradford should have a chunk of that. 

We know our business community leads the way in many areas of environmental performance. A 2019 survey of 2,000-plus companies across the city region revealed Bradford businesses are more likely to operate schemes to save energy, water and waste. They will tend to use environmentally friendly technologies and have formal environmental accreditations. And they will probably have taken action to clean up their supply chains. Businesses undertaking at least one of these actions are more likely to report stronger growth in turnover and employment.

Bradford has exceptional expertise in what is known as the ‘circular economy’. This is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems. The University of Bradford introduced the world’s first circular economy MBA in 2011, equipping students and sponsoring bodies with the skills to use resources and energy more effectively, reuse products and materials and deliver increased profits.

We have to be ambitious. The council submitted a business case to Government that aims to bring levels of nitrogen dioxide to EU limits within the shortest possible timeframe. Ministers have accepted the plan and provided £4m in initial funding to start work. The plan will help vehicle operators to upgrade to zone standards, support the roll-out of electric charging stations across the district, encourage ride sharing and invest in bus, cycle and walking routes.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for Healthy People and Healthy Places at Bradford Council, said: “Improving our air quality is a very serious issue that literally costs lives every year and we are determined to take action. It disproportionately affects more vulnerable communities in our district which is why the clean air zone and additional proposals are so important to making Bradford a healthier place to live, work and visit.”

Born in Bradford, the pioneering large-scale research programme, is informing policy development and will analyse the effects of the clean air plan. Dr Rosie McEachan, director of Born in Bradford, said: “We’re proud that our Born in Bradford findings are helping the council find new and ambitious ways of tackling pollution within the district and are planning an exciting new research project to evaluate the impact of the clean air plan on air quality and health. We will be working with Born in Bradford families across the district and training up school children as air quality ‘citizen scientists’ to help monitor the effects on health and wellbeing.”

Cleaning up our act will take maximum effort from public, private and third sector and we will need everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Getting it right will help create a more inclusive economy that everyone can succeed in.