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.

Bradford is one of the best places to do business

Bradford city skyline

By Dave Baldwin

Bradford, by virtue of a simple but salient metric of economic growth, is one of the best places for business in 2020, according to The Sunday Times. The newspaper’s reckoning comes courtesy of ‘gross value added per worker’, a measure of the value generated by any unit engaged in the production of goods and services. With a figure of £48,694, Bradford is 15th in the UK, ahead of places like Newcastle, Glasgow, Sheffield, Belfast and Nottingham. That’s quite an achievement.

The Centre for Cities think tank produced the analysis using the latest available numbers from the National Office for Statistics. The results appeared in a special supplement sponsored by KPMG. The report resonated with us because it represents yet more national recognition of the progress being made by our district, which is so important in changing perceptions of Bradford.

Euan West, who heads KPMG in Yorkshire, told us: “As an advisory firm born in the North and celebrating our 150th anniversary, we supported The Sunday Times’ Best Places for Business report because we wanted to shine a light on how much cities like Bradford offer as a home to commerce. The city earned its place in the report due to its economic vibrancy; its GVA per worker of almost £49,000 represents a rise of approximately a fifth in the last decade. And no wonder, with a youthful talent pool, regeneration of the city centre and beyond, a great position along the M62 corridor plus playing an important role in the wider Leeds City Region.”

The report highlighted our £10.1bn economy, our youthful population, one of the youngest in the UK, and our proud business history typified by the likes of the late Sir Ken Morrison, who transformed a small family business into a national grocery giant. This potential has seen businesses set up or move to Bradford and helped the district recover from the decline of the textiles industry, it said. Start-ups are attracted by low commercial rents, good road infrastructure and fast broadband: strong growth factors which led Barclays to name Bradford the best place in Britain to start a business.

It’s catching: the district gave birth to 4,185 new start-ups, including 166 new tech companies, in 2019, according to the Centre for Entrepreneurs. That’s an increase of 1.41 per cent on 2018. The Sunday Times singled out Incuto, the Ilkley-based fintech firm, Tarte and Berry, the Pudsey-based artisan baker, and Power Sheds, the Bradford-based online retailer, as ones to watch in the district.

Access to talent is everything for fast-growing businesses. The University of Bradford plays an important part in this respect. The report listed Professor Zahir Irani, pro-vice chancellor for academic innovation and quality, as an influencer in the district along with Kersten England CBE, chief executive of Bradford Council, and Ian Mann, CEO of cyber security firm ECSC. Prof Irani said: “The University of Bradford is playing a vital role in creating a skilled and educated workforce for the region.” Too right.

If anything, the university’s position will become more important in the coming years. As well as investing in new transport infrastructure, such as the High Speed North east-west rail line (and yes, we must have a city centre stop in Bradford), the Government wants to strengthen “innovation systems” to support the resurgence of the regions. A leading thinker in this field, Professor Richard Jones of Sheffield University, has argued that “public investments in new translational research facilities will attract private sector investment, bring together wider clusters of public and business research and development, institutions for skills development, and networks of expertise, boosting innovation and leading to productivity growth”. 

New capacity should be built in areas like health and social care, said Prof Jones, whose work has been cited in a blog by the Prime Minister’s chief advisor, a clear indicator of intent. This approach creates significant opportunities for Bradford. Under new Vice Chancellor Shirley Congdon, the university is backing opportunities in existing strengths including health and well-being, healthcare sciences, peace and international development, business, organisations and management, engineering, data science and technology.

Bradford is fighting its way back. The growth in productivity – rising by nearly a fifth of the last decade – is a great achievement considering the difficult circumstances after the financial crash and resulting austerity. This shows our spirit of enterprise is strong as is our will to succeed, whatever the challenges we might face. With the right backing, Bradford’s future looks bright.

The new Darley Street Market is another piece of Bradford’s jigsaw

Darley Street Market artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

The people have spoken. They have chosen a name for the biggest project to date in the ongoing regeneration of Bradford city centre. The £21m market development will be called Darley Street Market. The simple but effective title was chosen by nearly half of respondents in a public survey launched late last year.

What’s in a name? First, it clearly signals the location for visitors to the city. And second, it draws on the heritage of Bradford’s historic high street, the location of markets for more than a century. The combination of location, heritage and investment are essential for any successful regeneration.

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, portfolio holder for regeneration, planning and transport at Bradford Council, said: “The markets have a special place for so many Bradford residents and therefore it was very important for us to consult with as many people across the Bradford district.

“We want residents to be involved in the new market project and what better way than to decide on the name for the new market. Darley Street Market was the overwhelming favourite as people made clear they wanted a name that was direct, celebrated the heritage of the street and gave a clear indication as to its location.

“We are fully committed to delivering the extensive reconstruction of the markets offer in the city centre and this is another step in creating a space that not only offers an innovative shopping experience, but also a place that the local community feels belongs to them.”

The project will burst into life this spring. The destruction of several vacant stores will make space for the creation of a beautiful new multi-storey market building. Large windows will bathe the interiors with natural light, multiple entrances will welcome shoppers and a public square will connect Piccadilly and Darley Street and provide a place for open air events and outdoor stalls. Filled with food, fashion and other fare from every corner of the world, it will be irresistible.

The council has appointed Kier as its preferred bidder for the development. Phil McDowell, operations director at Kier Regional Building Northern, said: “This vital regeneration project is the largest to be undertaken in Bradford and will provide a dynamic, vibrant and diverse shopping location for visitors. We’re thrilled to be appointed as preferred bidder to work with Bradford Council and are committed to delivering a project that benefits the community.”

Darley Street Market will be split across three floors, each with their own special identity and environment. The lower ground floor will focus on dry foods within a vaulted structure intended to be warm and intimate. The upper ground floor will house the main fresh food stalls. The first floor will host a world food court with communal seating areas.

It’s going to be great. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes the byword for market developments in Britain in the same way the award-winning City Park has established itself as one of the best examples of reimagined public spaces in the 21st century.

The entire city centre will be transformed this decade 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 visitors. In the area around the Top of Town, a city village of 1,000 new homes and spaces for business is planned.

All this adds up to something significant. This is what happens when you get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. Investment, jobs and growth will follow. The people are getting behind it, as demonstrated by the 1,200 individual responses to the survey on public markets. This is a renewal of pride and ambition.

The impact of Bradford as a film and TV location

Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren on the set of The Duke, filmed in Bradford

By Dave Baldwin

City Hall played host to the A-list actors Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent as the latest major film production rolled into the district. Dame Helen has clearly been enjoying her stay, telling her many social media followers about Mumtaz curry house, Snow White at the Alhambra Theatre and an 80s night out, commenting about “the one and only Bradford with its own magic”.

The Academy Award-winning stars are appearing in The Duke, directed by Roger Michell of Notting Hill fame, which tells the story of Kempton Bunton, a taxi driver who was convicted of stealing Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961. Bunton claimed he wanted to raise £140,000 to help pay for TV licences for old-age pensioners in his home city of Newcastle.

David Wilson, director of Bradford UNESCO City of Film, told the local newspaper: “It was a real pleasure to host the first scenes of this film in Bradford. We have worked closely with the production for the past few months to prepare some excellent Bradford locations.

“In addition to the excitement of having such great talent in the city there is also the economic impact in terms of hotel stays for crew and local spend at cafes. We have also managed to get some great opportunities for students from the University of Bradford and Bradford College to support the production.”

Experience like this will be invaluable for the lucky students. It means they don’t have to pack their bags and travel to London or Hollywood to get a taste of what it is like to work on a major film production. The industry opportunity is on the doorstep here in Bradford.

The region saw almost non-stop production again last year, with the Bradford Film Office playing a vital supporting role in providing locations, production office space, hotel accommodation, local crew and extras. Peaky Blinders, Gentleman Jack, Victoria, Pennyworth, Ackley Bridge, the Downton Abbey movie, and Official Secrets were all shot in or around Bradford and the wider region.

Clio Barnard, the director of award-winning Bradford-based films The Arbor and The Selfish Giant, has returned to the district to make her latest feature, Ali & Ava, with filming in BD3. AA Dhand, the acclaimed Bradford-based crime writer, is making his first film, No Ordinary Life, which is set to premiere at the Bradford Literature Festival.

All this work provides a direct boost through multiple employment opportunities in front of and behind the camera. The longer term impact comes from promotion of our district as a tourist destination, both urban and rural. The City of Film offers location tours for film fans from across the world. The Bradford Movie Trail takes in scenes from classics such as Billy Liar, The Railway Children, Rita, Sue and Bob Too and Monty Python’s Meaning of Life as well as many more recent favourites.

Success breeds success. As in other areas of our economy, momentum is building in our domestic film industry. Mr Wilson said: “It is very clear to me that the Bradford district is held in very high regard and with a lot of affection by production managers, producers and directors who are making repeat visits but also recommending Bradford to other productions.”

We are living in a content revolution. Tech and media giants are pumping billions of dollars into original material in the global battle for attention. Netflix is spending $15bn a year on new content. Apple is committing $6bn to catch up. Disney is joining the fray with its new streaming brand. Not to mention BBC, ITV and Channel 4, which I understand is already operating in Leeds ahead of its head office move. It is estimated that more money will be spent on new content this year alone than during the entire 90s.

With our incredible architectural heritage and awe-inspiring natural landscapes, it is highly likely the flow of investment to Bradford will increase in coming years. Little Germany could easily pass for Gotham. The Dales for the Shire. Not only do we have the stunning locations, we also have the creative writing, acting and directing talent that is now bursting its way to the fore. Our film industry will form an important part of our bid to host UK City of Culture in 2025. And that would be the best starring role in a generation.

Bradford’s new Lady Hale Court to support diversity

Bradford’s new Lady Hale Court to support diversity

By Dave Baldwin

It was a moment of high drama. Lady Hale, the President of the UK’s Supreme Court, drew breath before announcing that the Prime Minister had acted unlawfully when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament. The decision catapulted Lady Hale – and the giant diamond spider brooch she wore on her lapel – onto the front pages and into the public consciousness.

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since September 24 2019, but Lady Hale hasn’t changed much. Baroness Hale of Richmond, who grew up in North Yorkshire and has family connections to our district, was at the University of Bradford’s School of Law to officially open a new mock law court in her name. As the first woman President of the UK’s Supreme Court and a genuine trailblazer for equality and justice, it was a fitting honour.

Bradford’s School of Law was established in 2005 and has since graduated close to 2,000 aspiring legal eagles. It’s a small school, but prides itself on offering superb support and learning to its students with a real focus on skills training. The Lady Hale Court is a great addition for a great school. The university also wants the local community to have access to the room and experience the look and feel of a ‘real’ court.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Lady Hale said: “It’s very important that the diversity of those entering the legal profession is increased. Because the law is for everyone, and those who are administering the law should reflect everyone. It shouldn’t just be a narrow, so-called elite group of people. And so a place like Bradford, which is making real efforts towards social inclusion and being there for everyone, is a very valuable place.”

The university statistics speak for themselves: more than 70 per cent of students are from BAME backgrounds and more than 50 per cent of students are from the most socio-economically deprived areas.

Bradford was named University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2020 in the latest Times/Sunday Times university league table. The award was based on measures including numbers of mature and disabled students, those from non-selective state schools, from ethnic minorities and from the most deprived areas. “Bradford… offers lessons to the rest of British higher education on how to effectively embrace social diversity on campus,” said the guide.

Diversity is a great strength of my home city. Indeed, Prince William said he found Bradford “very intriguing” in this respect. We have a fantastic multicultural hub, bringing together people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. Black and minority ethnic communities make up 36 per cent of the city’s total population, and 153 different languages are spoken in schools in the district.

For the city to achieve its full potential, we need to ensure that everyone has the chance to contribute. In our annual review of progress of our economic growth strategy, I was particularly pleased that more BME women are in work than before – in the year to March 2019, it broke the 20,000 barrier – that number has doubled since 2010. I would hope to see more of the same when we look back on the current year. Inspiring female leaders from all backgrounds are pushing ahead and breaking down barriers.

Professor Shirley Congdon is an inspirational individual. As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford, she knows that the university has an important part to play in promoting equality and diversity.  Writing in the Yorkshire Post last summer, she spoke about everyone having the opportunity to go to university and challenging the structural issues in society that hold people back. Her plan is more engagement with small, medium and large companies in Bradford to help them become more productive. Better quality jobs and more work experience opportunities would drive social inclusion through economic growth.

Lady Hale is another leading the charge for equality – the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission and the first female to lead the most powerful court in the land, where she can take the Prime Minister to task. Speaking at the opening of the Lady Hale Court – this time wearing an eye-catching octopus brooch on her lapel – she spoke passionately about the need for all young people to have an opportunity to make best use of their talents. It was Yorkshire through and through – sensible, straight forward but with a touch of courtroom drama.

Picture credit: Tony Johnson / Yorkshire Post

Royal visit is stamp of approval for Bradford

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge outside Bradford City Hall

By Dave Baldwin

As royal visits go, this was near perfect. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in their first official engagement of the year, came to Bradford and saw at first hand some fine examples of the work taking place across our district to support and promote community cohesion.

Cheered on by enthusiastic crowds, William and Kate visibly enjoyed themselves as they met entrepreneurs, apprentices, charity workers, faith leaders and volunteers dedicated to improving quality of life in one of Britain’s most diverse cities.

“The diversity of Bradford has always been very intriguing,” Prince William is reported to have said. “I think what you are all doing to help each other and bring the community together is very powerful. You can see that communities are trying to come together, trying to help each other, get to know each other and that is really crucial.”

In this respect, Bradford leads Britain. After some difficult decades, the city is bouncing back and last year won the ‘Most Improved’ title in an influential report on social and economic growth. The prince added: “If we can replicate that more across the country then it can only be for good – bringing everybody together, which is the reason why we want to get round the UK now and see as many places in the UK we may not have been very much to, and try to understand some of the more complex challenges.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet young people at Bradford City Hall

The visit began at City Hall where the royal couple met with young people who had been noted for their work in the city. Their discussion covered mental health, drug dealing, video games, apprenticeships and women in engineering. Bradford Council chief executive Kersten England CBE said: “What struck me most was the immediate and easy rapport between the Duke and Duchess and the young people. Their Royal Highnesses were clearly impressed by the talent, passion and ambition in the room. The discussion was thoughtful and engaged, it didn’t shirk difficult topics but was upbeat and optimistic.”

Afterwards, they met business and civic leaders including myself, representatives from Bradford Chamber of Commerce and Adeeba Malik CBE, the deputy chief executive of Bradford-based charity QED. She told the prince: “Your trip to Pakistan, please don’t underestimate the importance of it. It was phenomenal. It was so powerful.” The Duke and Duchess visited Pakistan in October to celebrate the nation’s historic ties with Britain. The five-day tour was the first royal visit to the country since 2006. “We loved it,” said William.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at My Lahore in Bradford

The next stop was My Lahore restaurant, named after the food capital of Pakistan, where the prince and princess met students from Bradford College taking part in an apprenticeship scheme and made mango and kulfi milkshakes in the kitchen. They spoke with boxer Amir Khan, a friend of the restaurant owners, about his boxing foundation and mental health in sport.

The royal couple also visited the Khidmat Centre, where they joined a Better Start Bradford workshop, which uses music and play to support children’s social, emotional and physical development while supporting adult self esteem. Bradford baker Siama Ali presented the Duke and Duchess with a beautifully designed cake, adorned with royal portraits and Union Jack flags.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the Khidmat Centre in Bradford

The final visit was to a workshop run by Near Neighbours, an organisation that brings together people in diverse communities to create relationships of trust and to help people transform their neighbourhoods. It summed up the theme of the visit. The Bishop of Bradford, Toby Howarth, praised the Royal Family for “championing Christian-Muslim relationships well before it became fashionable”. He added: “The Royal Family have made it very clear all the way along that Britain is a nation for everyone, every religion, every culture. Her Majesty has done that, Prince Charles has done that and now we can see the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will do that.”

A parting message came via social media from the official Kensington Palace account to an audience of 1.9m. It said simply, “Thank you Bradford!” and featured a video montage of their visit, which I think they enjoyed as much as we all did. Bradford succeeded in showing one of the most famous couples in the world a perfect example of a vibrant, confident and diverse modern place. We can consider this a royal stamp of approval for Britain’s most improved city.

Why people and businesses are choosing Bradford

One City Park artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

People vote with their feet. In Bradford, we are seeing more people eating and drinking in the city centre after work. This spike in footfall – called “alive after five” – is all down to the office sector, according to BID manager Jonny Noble. “More Grade A offices are a no-brainer,” he said.

They are on their way. Muse Developments, the urban renewal specialist, has been chosen by Bradford Council to deliver a major new office building at City Park as part of the local authority’s wider regeneration of the city centre. The One City Park project will create a state-of-the-art and environmentally excellent building with 56,403 sq ft of Grade A space in the city centre.

David Wells, regional director at Muse Developments, said: “This development will form an important part of the council’s city centre masterplan and we will be delivering a best-in-class destination that attracts new occupiers to Bradford and reinforces the city centre as a fantastic location for business.”

It’s going to be a busy decade for Bradford. The £21m market project will provide the city centre with modern market facilities and help meet the challenge of the changing high street. A city village of 1,000 new homes and spaces for business is planned for the area in and around the Top of the Town. Forster Square train station is set to undergo a major redevelopment. All will improve the amenity of Bradford and encourage more people to work and live in the city centre.

Businesses are starting to look at Bradford in a different way. PwC chose Bradford city centre for its new UK assurance centre in a significant vote of confidence in the district and its talent pool. The global accountancy giant is creating up to 225 new white collar jobs at 5 Godwin Street, another Grade A office development. No doubt those new recruits will be contributing to that spike in footfall after work.

They have plenty of choice for places to go. The £260m Broadway Shopping Centre has established itself as one of the UK’s most successful retail and leisure destinations and is winning national recognition for its performance in areas like footfall, customer spend, dwell time and community engagement, campaigns such as Sparkling Bradford and its ability to attract new tenants. For those who like something a little different, the historic tunnels of Sunbridge Wells and its subterranean bars and venues are certainly “alive after five”.

Our city centre workers have spending power. Bradford saw the biggest growth in advertised salaries of any major city in the UK, according to research published last month by the job search engine adzuna.co.uk. Bradford salaries rose by 3.6 per cent last year, compared to declines in places like London, Manchester and Leeds. Adzuna said Bradford is “bucking the trend and showing strong growth”.

Employment is bouncing back after some tough years. Bradford enjoyed the largest improvement in the jobs score of any city in the UK between 2015 and 2018 with unemployment falling from 10 per cent to 4.1 per cent over the period, according to the Demos-PwC report on Good Growth. It also showed how more than 43 per cent of adults held at least an NVQ level 3 qualification in 2018, compared to 39 per cent in 2015. As a result, the report crowned Bradford as Britain’s most improved city.

Property investment is all about timing. Congratulations to Muse on being selected to bring forward the One City Park project. The timing could not be better. The developer and the council say they will work together throughout 2020 to formalise the proposed partnership, develop the design of the building and work on a planning application. Subject to planning, work will begin on site in 2021 with expected completion in 2023. Before long, the city centre will have more Grade A space to attract new investment in the district.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said: “The appointment of award-winning developers Muse to design and build One City Park is yet another firm indicator that Bradford is on the way up. Building on the success of City Park and the progress of Bradford Live, it’s a further indication that the UK’s youngest city, with its entrepreneurial spirit, is recognised by the wider business community as a place where they want to, and can, do business and that we are a council which supports them to do that.”

People do vote with their feet. So does business. And they are making their way to Bradford.

2019: a brilliant year for the Bradford District

One City Park artist's impression

By Dave Baldwin

Looking back, it’s been a brilliant year for Bradford. To prove the point, this week’s column highlights some of the success stories that emerged from our diverse district during 2019. Taken together, they demonstrate our social, economic and cultural renaissance is gathering pace.

In January, new figures from the Centre for Entrepreneurs foundation showed that 4,127 businesses were born in Bradford in 2018, the equivalent of 15 new start-ups every working day. Who knows what wonders are being dreamed up on our doorsteps?

We have the entrepreneurs; we just need to back them with investment in infrastructure. In February, Transport for the North published its strategy for the next three decades. It singled out the impact that Northern Powerhouse Rail would have on Bradford, home to half a million people and the fifth largest economy in the North, currently worth £10.5bn. It says NPR is “central to unlocking opportunity and transformational growth in Bradford”. Too right.

March marked the first anniversary of the launch of our economic growth plan. We are making strong progress in attracting new investors, starting up and scaling up businesses, building new partnerships and bringing more people into the workforce. We have seen a private sector jobs boom of 6,500 new roles; we have broken through the 20,000 barrier in the number of BME women in employment, almost double the amount since 2010; and we have seen an inflation-busting seven per cent increase in average weekly workplace earnings.

Aside, I loved the headline in The Times, “Who needs London, Paris or Monte Carlo, when you’ve got Bradford?” Okay, it was only a Giles Coren restaurant review but we’ll take the glowing national coverage as an example of the positive momentum we’re gaining as a district.

PwC, the global accountancy giant, unveiled its new national assurance centre in Bradford in May. Speaking at the launch, Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, said: “This is a really exciting time in Bradford and the opening of this office means new jobs, new investment and a boost to Bradford’s profile right across the city and the country. I know that PwC’s decision is a recognition of the significant commercial opportunity that Bradford offers.”

Bradford Literature Festival returned in June with a stellar line-up featuring 500 writers and 400 events across 10 days. That Habib Ali al-Jifri, an internationally-renowned Islamic scholar, and Luke Goss, one half of 80s pop band Bros and now LA-based actor, were among the hottest tickets summed up the sheer excellence of our very own world-class festival.

We all know it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in, especially when the odds are stacked against you. Lillian Armitage had plenty and more than a century after she was jailed for her part in the suffragette movement, a Bradford street was named after her in July. It’s great that our district is celebrating the contributions of women like Lillian through a new campaign called Pioneering Bradford Lasses.

England went cricket mad in the summer and homegrown heroes Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid became national heroes for their part in the miraculous Cricket World Cup victory. In August, I wrote about Adil’s visit to his local mosque in Bradford to meet overjoyed cricket supporters. He said: “They’re seeing someone from this area who has made something for themselves and achieved something massive. If I can be an inspiration to the youngsters – or anyone for that matter – then I have done my job.”

In September, we launched Bradford’s bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025. Our district is undergoing substantial regeneration. Business and civic leaders are working together for the greater good. Bradford is brimming with new talent. We have the infrastructure to stage an ambitious programme of international events. People are seeing us in a different way. Being host city would be brilliant for Bradford.

Strong cities need strong institutions and when a leading example is singled out for its excellence, it strengthens the standing of the city overall. Step forward University of Bradford, named by The Sunday Times in October as the UK’s University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2020. It’s a perfect illustration of the transformational work taking place across our district.

Bradford Manufacturing Weeks was a soaraway success. Delivered by Bradford Chamber of Commerce, this year’s initiative created an estimated 5,000 work experiences with 65 manufacturers involved, double the number of 2018’s inaugural programme. As well as helping boost apprenticeship numbers, the scheme gives young people a glimpse of the inspiring, innovative and rewarding enterprises creating wealth and prosperity across our district.

In November, Bradford was crowned Britain’s Most Improved City in an influential annual report on economic wellbeing following a record reduction in unemployment and significant growth in skills. The nationwide study, Good Growth for Cities 2019 by think tank Demos, measured the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities against a range of 10 priorities including jobs, health, income, skills, work-life balance, housing affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups. 

As I write, Bradford Council has announced Muse as its development partner for One City Park, a new state-of-the-art office building at the city centre’s award-winning City Park and the next step in the ongoing growth and regeneration of the entire district. All in all, I am delighted but not surprised at Bradford’s successes over the last year. It shows what can happen when you get everyone’s noses pointing in the same direction. See you in 2020.

Introducing the new Bradford 2025 director

Bradford Bid director

By Dave Baldwin

If I’m asked why Bradford is bidding to host the UK City of Culture in 2025, my answer is simple. There is no better candidate. Winning this status would accelerate the regeneration of our district and bring major social and economic benefits to our people. Even the process of putting together the bid over the next two years will help bring the city together as part of our longer-term cultural strategy.

Here are some facts and figures in support of our story. Bradford is the sixth largest city in the UK. It is a city of great architecture – you can call it ‘good bone structure’ – and rich cultural heritage. We have a powerful and dynamic business community with some truly innovative companies. But 60 per cent of our population live in the poorest 20 per cent of wards in England and Wales. And nearly one third – 32 per cent – of our children live in poverty.

We have to turn this around for the sake of the generations to follow. We are making excellent progress in our economic strategy, as evidenced by being named Britain’s Most Improved City in a recent report from think tank Demos and accountancy giant PwC, which emphasised our strong growth in jobs and skills. We know that significant challenges remain, not least that Bradford is often misunderstood as a city and stereotyped by the media. We need to change these perceptions and rekindle the pride of our people.

Our ambition to host the UK City of Culture is part of this wider strategy and has marked an important milestone with the appointment of a full-time director to lead the campaign. Richard Shaw is a highly experienced arts and media professional with a strong track record in public engagement, broadcasting, management and marketing. He has held senior marketing, development and production roles at world-class organisations including the British Film Institute, the National Theatre, English National Ballet and Lion Television.

We are delighted to welcome him to Bradford and I know he will be inspired by the awesome potential of our district. Richard, who was born in Yorkshire and attended Hull University, said: “The bid for the UK City of Culture title is a huge opportunity for Bradford to shout proudly about its extraordinary cultural heritage and to celebrate the new generation of artists, musicians, writers, performers, producers, entrepreneurs and businesses that bring this great city to life today.

“I’m enormously excited to be coming back to live in Yorkshire and to help work on a bold, distinctive and genuinely inclusive bid. We need to capture as many voices as we have across the district to find themes and stories about Bradford, its people and its place in the UK to make a compelling case to the judges. And as Europe’s youngest city, Bradford’s young voices will be instrumental in helping shape our vision.”

With more than 140 languages spoken in our district and a rich diversity of ethnic backgrounds, Bradford’s stories can resonate with audiences across the world. Led by Richard, I am sure the bid team will put together a knockout package for the 2021 deadline. The size of overall prize is worth highlighting: the most recent UK City of Culture, Hull, counted £676m worth of new public and private investment as the economic legacy of its host status in 2017. With a population nearly twice the size of Hull, Bradford could become the first City of Culture to generate a billion pound dividend for its people.

We have to be ambitious. There is so much talent bursting out of our district. Harnessing that potential and putting it under a spotlight will reap incredible rewards and inspire countless young people to go for it. We have some great role models. People like AA Dhand, the crime writer who has just announced his first short film, ‘No Ordinary Life’, which will be premiered at next year’s Bradford Literature Festival, or Sonya Whitworth, managing director of Shipley-based assessment technology provider BTL Group, who has just beaten representatives of some of the biggest global brands to take home silver at the prestigious Stevie business awards in New York. As I said at the outset, there is no better candidate to host the UK City of Culture in 2025.