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.

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

Bradford Businesses Successful in Community Business Challenge

Five community businesses in Bradford have each been awarded £10,000 in the M&S Community Business Challenge. The successful businesses are:

  • Bread + Roses
  • The Thornbury Centre
  • Margaret Magdalene CIC
  • Friends of Silsden Town Hall
  • Queensbury Celtic Football Club

This business support programme is a partnership between M&S and Power to Change and PWC.

All five businesses received £10,000, an offer of business advice from M&S and an opportunity to join PwC’s social entrepreneur club, which offers:

  • a business strategy
  • strategic business advice
  • advice on how to continue to grow
  • advice on how to create efficiencies

Congratulations to the five successful businesses. We look forward to seeing them develop through this support from M&S and Power to Change.

Bradford is the most improved city to live and work

Bradford City Park

Bradford has been named as the most improved city in a nationwide study of the best places to live and work in the UK.

Bradford’s standing as this year’s top improver is driven by jobs, work-life balance and skills amongst its 25+ year olds.

Bradford has experienced a large reduction in its unemployment rate, measured at 4.1% in 2018 compared to 10% in 2015. The city also demonstrated moderate improvements in work-life balance, health, environment and skills amongst the adult population.

Bradford Council Chief Executive Kersten England said:

“We are delighted to be rated as the most improved city in this year’s Good Growth Index. This is in part is recognition of our employment growth and the great quality of life in the district.

“This has come during a great year where there are many positives to point to – from great national businesses investing in the district such as the NEC and Channel 4 to our strong local businesses such as the growing EXA Networks in the IT sector and expanding high-tech engineering businesses such as Global Precision Engineering in Keighley.

“The district has recently been rated by Barclays as the best city to start a business in the UK and we have welcomed the creation of over two thousand businesses in the first nine months of 2019.

“We know there is more to do and we are looking forward to building on this success.”

The annual Demos-PwC Good Growth for Cities 2019 sets out to show there’s more to economic well-being than just measuring GDP. The index measures the performance of 42 of the UK’s largest cities, England’s Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and ten Combined Authorities, against a basket of ten factors which the public think are most important when it comes to economic well being. These include jobs, health, income and skills, as well as work-life balance, house-affordability, travel-to-work times, income equality, environment and business start-ups.

Talented Bradford writers producing outstanding theatre

By Dave Baldwin

Tech and media giants are piling billions of dollars into streaming services. 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. The fate of all this investment will live or die by the quality of its output. That will be determined by the quality of input. Good writing, in other words.

Bradford offers an astonishingly rich seam of original content. The district is producing some very exciting new writers. BD Stories, presented by theatre company Freedom Studios, perfectly illustrates the point. The double bill of short short plays celebrates the stories and cultures of Bradford. The production is a triumph of emerging writing talent and points to a promising future.

BD Stories

The first play, Number 4, is set in a women’s basketball team and tells a powerful and universal story of friendship, identity, body image and sport. The playwright Asma Elbadawi was born in Sudan and moved to Bradford as a young child. She overcame dyslexia to become a poet, performance artist and writer. She is also a basketball player, coach and global brand ambassador for Adidas.

“Growing up with dyslexia means I had an issue with spelling,” Asma told the BBC. “I would just write the poems and not share them. As I got older, I got the urge to share my work a lot more… Anyone can do those amazing things they see other people do.”

Asma has performed at TEDx Bradford, Bradford Literature Festival, Liverpool Acoustic Festival, Women of the World Festival and London Word of Mouth. She won the 2015 Words First poetry competition in Leeds. Her poetry and interviews have featured on the BBC, Al Jazeera, Channel 4 and Buzzfeed. Number 4 is her first play.

The second play, Pashto Thriller, tells the story of a teenage British-Pakistani girl growing up in Bradford in the 1980s, struggling with having to wear a shalwar kameez at school and harbouring a secret love of Michael Jackson and dancing. When Bibi visits from Pakistan, grandmother and granddaughter find more in common than they thought. It is an exhilarating play; funny, sad and joyful.

It is Aina J Khan’s first play. She moved to Bradford aged 15 and based the story on her and her mother’s experiences. Aina is a journalist and has been published in the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Vogue, Financial Times and Vice. She told The Yorkshire Post: “Within Bradford, there is such a volcano of talent and creativity because there are so many people who are starving to tell their stories because they have been neglected for so long. They have not had the funding and focus that other cities like London have had.”

Both Aina and Asma were associate artists at Freedom Studios, a pioneering theatre company responsible for developing artistic and creative talent in Yorkshire. They were encouraged simply to write about what they wanted to write about. Audiences will agree the results are outstanding. “Significant, important and inspiring”, said writer, critic and BBC presenter Nick Ahad of their work.

Alex Chisolm, co-artistic director, said: “BD Stories came about to bring these two plays to a wider audience in Bradford, an audience that has wholeheartedly embraced both plays. Freedom Studios exists to nurture new talent and new stories and bring them to life with and for communities. Bradford has a richness of stories in all of the connections, and frictions, between its many communities. And it has a wealth of talent to tell those stories to a wider world.”

All this bodes well for our bid to host UK City of Culture in 2025. It shows why Channel 4 chose to set up its new national headquarters on our doorstep. A canny move. Studios looking for the next big streaming hit would do well to look beyond the usual sources for their inspiration. They will find plenty to write home about in Bradford.

Bradford’s UK City of Culture bid is a sign of increased optimism

Dancers at the Bradford 2025 launch event

By Dave Baldwin

Monty Python was right: always look on the bright side of life. A major US study of more than 70,000 people has confirmed that optimists live longer than those with a negative outlook. The researchers from Boston University also found that positive people were more likely to set themselves goals and believe they would achieve them.

That’s the point I want to make here. To be successful at anything, you must believe in yourself. Bradford’s bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025 is a sure sign of growing self belief. If you doubt me, have a look at Jack King’s We Are All Bradford film, the first commission for the bid, and feel the sense of confidence and optimism in the way people of all ages and backgrounds are talking about our district.

“It’s a city of constant stimulation… it’s always challenging you and asking you questions… it’s a city of joy and a home away from home… a city of industrial innovation… of creative and artistic innovation… and a city of the world,” according to some of the voices in the film. See it for yourself and share it with your friends.

Winning host status is our goal and we are going all out to achieve it. Businesses have an important role to play. Suzanne Watson, President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, said: “We support Bradford’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2025. Businesses know they will be more successful operating in a vibrant, aspirational place. Being UK City of Culture would help us to share more widely the assets and enthusiasm that we see locally.

“I think that the bid process itself will bring in different stakeholders to contribute positively to the campaign and this will highlight some of the very significant gains that Bradford can achieve by being accorded this designation. We already have lots to shout about but being UK City of Culture can help us make a step-change in this area. The bid will demonstrate Bradford’s global connectivity, its strong partnership working and its historical and continuing contributions to the arts, commerce, politics, sport and innovation… to name just a few areas.”

Sandy Needham, Chief Executive at West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “It’s the arts, sport, the environment and people that define the culture of a city. Bradford’s museums, festivals, architecture, sport, international food and young population make it a welcoming place. For many visitors, it exceeds expectations. It’s a good place to start a business too – workspace costs are reasonable, for example, and there’s a growing population.

“Recruitment is a competitive market so being based in a city offering quality of life and cultural activities makes a difference to how attractive jobs are. Initiatives such as our own Bradford Manufacturing Weeks help raise awareness of local career opportunities while businesses in that particular sector are already exporting their products all over the world, and so promoting Bradford.”

Bradford does face extraordinary challenges. But it also presents extraordinary opportunities. I’m an optimist. I believe that if we all work together and get our noses pointing in the same direction, we can achieve great things: whether that’s adding £4bn to our district economy, getting 20,000 extra people into work, raising the skills levels of 48,000 more or winning the bid to host the UK City of Culture in 2025. If there is ever any doubt, give a whistle and remember: always look on the bright side of life.

Business leaders, by their nature, tend to be positive people. Given the constant cut and thrust of running a business, it is essential to see the glass as half full. They can make a big difference to our bid by showing their support. To find out more, I invite them to get in touch with the Bradford Chamber or visit the Bradford 2025 City of Culture website.