Wednesday, 5 June 2013


It has been a while since I have wrote anything on this blog.  I was struggling for inspiration, I have been very  busy and then also I have moved away from Bradford city centre.  That is quite a change, but that's what spending about 9 hours of my life on the X6 travelling to work can do.

One of my most read posts last year was a couple of scenarios looking at the future of Bradford.  One was a doomsday scenario of the death of the city, the other was a more optimistic one: the Renaissance of Bradford (The former post got more views, naturally) and both of these appeared in How Do Magazine.  Both posts were written from the viewpoint of someone in 2052, as a timeline.
National Media Museum Bradford
The Death of Bradford said, in 2028, that the National Media Museum closes down and moves over to Media City in Salford.  It is now apparent that this could be a lot earlier, as one of the three of the excellent Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester and the National Railway Museum in York, along with the National Media Museum is expected to be closed down.  It does worry a little bit how Bradford compares to the tourist hotbed of York and the bold city of Manchester, which should really be regarded as England's second city (in my personal opinion, it's better than Birmingham!).  The death of Bradford entry had a lot of events about the failure of retail in the city, which I think is a cause for concern right now.  Conversely the renaissance of Bradford, whilst having numerous events about retail success, also had a range of cultural and education milestones to celebrate.
Bradford City Park
I think the death and renaissance scenarios when taken together reinforce the need for Bradford to become a centre of culture and education.  The Bollywood Carmen event, which will be broadcast live on BBC3 on Sunday, has given the city a positive national profile, along these lines. This event coincides with the 100th anniversary of Bollywood movies, which of course is being celebrated at the National Media Museum.  If publicly funded institutions stop investing in Bradford and indeed the north and continue to exacerbate the gap between London and the rest of England, where can Bradford go next?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Making Plans for Bradford

The Telegraph and Argus carried a story that Bradford Council are to embark on an Area Action Plan for the City Centre, the headline being 3,500 homes would be earmarked for the city centre.  This figure is nothing new, as it was set out in Bradford's earlier planning work – the Core Strategy consultation in 2011. The figure represents about 7% of the total housing requirement in Bradford over the next fifteen years.  Indeed, the Area Action Plan is not a new thing; the last consultation was in 2007.  This was a time when the Broadway site had some kind of redevelopment activity and City Park was an image very big pool on all around the town hall in Will Alsop's wacky masterplan and crucially at the height of the economic boom.  To think some people have the nerve to say things move slowly in planning.

The T&A article breaks down the city centre into six different areas.  I will use these six areas to provide some thoughts on what is being proposed.

Area 1: Little Germany and Broadway
Little Germany, Bradford
All being well, this area is likely to be dominated by the Broadway shopping development.  Visually, I think this will block off the heart of the city centre from Little Germany (the lovely vista that exists as a result of the hole would be lost) but overall, the shopping development would bring more life to Little Germany, which seems to have so much potential that is not being realised.  There is only detail about big sites in this plan, rather than small-scale interventions; but to develop close to the Cathedral and at Wapping Road, as well as off Valley Road may all support Little Germany becoming a more vibrant area.   In a previous masterplan part of this area was earmarked as the canal basin, with residential towerblocks all around. Whether or not the canal is in the area, there certainly needs to be some accessible greenspace to make the place more attractive to live.

Area 2: The Market Shopping Area
Fruit World market stall in the Oastler Centre
It is acknowledged that this area, which incorporates the Kirkgate Centre and the Oastler Centre will be impacted by the development of Broadway.  Residential development features throughout this area at a range of sites, including High Point, which may or may not be retained.  Given Bradford's hills and the distance of the Oastler Market from Broadway; I think that in the long term, this may be a disadvantage to Market unless Morrisons continues to play an important role in retail in this part of town.  A more radical idea could be to move the markets as a whole to the Kirkgate Centre, back to where they were in the first place – as this would solve the problem of what to do with the displacement of retailers from Kirkgate to Broadway.  Certainly the issue of empty shops is not going to go away, so this needs to be tackled in a creative way.

Area 3: The Valley (Goitside)
Vincent Street, Bradford
The vacant sites flanking Thornton Road and the empty and underused mill buildings around Goitside are the subject of residential development in the plan.  I do not disagree with this, but I feel that there would need to be a lot more going on in the area to make it feel more vibrant and safer.  The previous plans to open up Bradford Beck around Thornton Road and introduce more greenspace in this area would also help realise the potential of this area.

Area 4: University and College Campus Area
Bradford in blossom
This part of the plan seeks to develop vacant and under-used spaces for student accommodation and education uses, which makes sense.  Other uses to support people studying and living in this area should be provided.

Area 5: The Bowl Business and Leisure District
City Park, Bradford
This is the area from the Media Museum, Alhambra and Odeon across to the Leisure Exchange and St George's Hall.  This is where the bulk of new office space is planned for.  Controversially this includes the Odeon site and then the 'Business Forest' on the site of the Magistrates' Court and former Police Station.  The office space and the attraction of businesses into the city centre is something that perhaps underpins the future of Bradford as being a prosperous place – boosting retail in the centre and making the residential market more attractive.

Area 6: Southern Gateway
Clifford Street
This is the area south of the ring road between Wakefield Road and Manchester Road.  The development of this area is led by residential.  One concern is how the road barriers in this area would be overcome.


I think the proposals suggested in the plan are broadly sensible and would form a good way to develop the city centre, but I do have some general concerns.

As I said above, I think the attraction of businesses to the city centre is fundamental to how the city prospers but I think this will require  a lot of public sector finance.  First of all, the city centre growth zone is one public sector initiative that will provide businesses with rate relief and other support, which is the right kind of thing to help Bradford.  I think investment in infrastructure is key, particularly transport to help give the city centre a competitive edge and make Bradford a place of more strategic importance.  Schemes like Cross Rail would greatly help with this, but we all know this is not going to happen.

Emphasis on residential is another concern.  Not necessarily the idea, which I think is a good one – but more the deliverability of it.  First of all, past city centre living schemes were financed by generous lending, paid for by generous credit and by-to-let landlords looking to make a quick buck – those days are gone.  I would argue that many first time buyers are unlikely to buy city centre flats because by the time they have raised a deposit they will want to live somewhere where they can be more settled (i.e. if they have children) and will see outlying areas as less risky to invest their money.  This risk factor is also true of developers, who are supported by a planning system that puts very little emphasis on urban regeneration.  Until there is more incentive to develop inner city sites, rather than growth anywhere at all costs, than this could be a problem.

It seems that the approach to regenerate the city centre is, on the whole correct, but I am sceptical about how it will be delivered.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Oh Manchester (Road), so much to answer for

Like thousands of people Manchester Road forms part of my journey to and from work. Every morning and evening I travel down it on the bus and I just don't really think about it. It is a big road into the city and it does its job in getting people in and out of it. This evening I got off the bus at the junction with Mayo Avenue and Smiddles Lane, or Mayo and Smiddles if we're being a bit American, but that sounds like a really bad name for a pair of cats. I got off the bus with objective of walking to Lidl, which I did.

Walking down to Lidl I really noticed the mishmash of mainly low density buildings, that don't really relate to the road at all. The road does have shops, banks and takeaways on the west side of it, which indicate that the road has some community role rather than severing communities, but other than that it is largely a big bleak blank bland road which doesn't form a good welcome to the city. There are landmarks, like the new walking and cycling bridge. Whilst the bridge forms an important part of the local walking and cycling network, I can't help but feel it reinforces the separation between the pedestrian and motorvehicle, as do the many railings (as seen below). The road was designed as an urban motorway, but in reality is a road cutting through densely populated neighbourhoods with a speed limit of 30 mph.
Bus Lane
In the next thirty years, there could be many opportunities to improve this road. The vacant sites and low density development could be replaced by high density development that better encloses the road. The redevelopment of the Odsal Top area to make more efficient use of the space currently occupied by the Richard Dunn centre, redevelop the stadium and remove the roundabout and its piss-soaked subways is another. Replacing the disjointed guided busway with an urban rail system that can connect South Bradford better to the rest of the West Yorkshire conurbation and linking the whole road together with greenspace and trees, so it doesn't look so damn bleak. The Aspire development seeks to introduce some development fronting on to the street, which is a welcome start. The below picture of Avinguda Diagonal in Barcelona is the kind of grand urban boulevard we could learn from, with the typical weather too.
Avinguda Diagonal | Nieve en Barcelona
 Making better use of Manchester Road could accommodate a lot of the development needed in Bradford over the next few decades. These thoughts emerged as I walked towards a single-storey shed set back from the road. We can do better!
Lidl Bradford

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Garden of Light - something bigger or better?

The Garden of Light this week has presented a welcoming atmosphere in the city centre, with lots of people including families spending time around City Park, perhaps less so in the drizzle tonight.

As I was walking through the city tonight I considered what it could be like if the Garden of Light was extended. Here are a few ideas of how the Garden of Light could be the centre of something bigger, or indeed just some kind of city centre festival that could take place:
1) Co-ordinate with an evening or two of late opening at the Media Museum, Impressions Gallery, Peace Museum and others.
2) Introduce 'pop up' exhibitions / cafés for the duration of the garden of light in empty shops.
3) Light up large empty buildings like High Point or the former Police station.
4) Seek to have a programme of live music in a range of venues, from established live music venues, and also unusual venues like historic buildings.
5) A city centre ale trail - visit participating venues (could be about six) for a pint in the two weeks and get a free glass.
6) Well publicised special offers at the city centre restaurants over the the duration of the event.

Just a few I thought of on my short walk... any more?
Bradford Garden of Light

Thursday, 20 September 2012

We Are Leeds?

The other night I put a question to twitter:
The 'Leeds City Region' - good for Bradford, bad for Bradford or makes no difference?”

I received responses to this question from @simonmagus (who went on to write a blog on the subject), @them_apples, @adamhepton, @bradfordodeon, @hiddenbradford, @bd_angry and @poddi.

The main points seemed to be:
  • Bradford is not in Leeds
  • Does the Leeds 'brand' overshadow that of the rest of Yorkshire?
  • More joined up thinking
  • Good if it brings more money into Bradford
  • Yorkshire means something to everyone in the city region, Leeds doesn't

So, what is a city region?

A city region is a grouping of local authorities who work together to make decisions on big projects, like transport and to bring together the public and private sector to work together to deliver regeneration projects and pursue economic growth. City regions first formally appeared in Northern England as a result of John Prescott's baby 'The Northern Way'. The idea of this initiative was to seek to reduce the gap between Northern England and the south east, and for England to have successful cities outside of the capital – like Toulouse in France, Munich in Germany or Milan in Italy. The demise of regional governance brought in by the coalition government has lead to city regions getting more power in the form of the 'city deal'.

Where is Leeds City Region?

The City Region covers the local authories of West Yorkshire (Leeds, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield), as well as Selby, York, Harrogate, Craven and Barnsley. Barnsley also sits within the Sheffield city region. There is a strong view from people in Bradford that they are not Leeds. One imagines that people in somewhere like Masham (Harrogate District), Ingleton (Craven) or Walsden (Calderdale) would feel the same, or people in the ancient city of York.
York Minster

Would West Yorkshire City Region be a better name?

West Yorkshire, as we've known it since 1974 includes the five districts that make up the old Metropolitan County, but doesn't include districts like Harrogate. But all the places in the Leeds City Region were historically part of the West Riding of Yorkshire and I'm sure the residents of all the area could identify with being in Yorkshire and not Leeds.

Is the Leeds thing just a name?

Investment in the city region will be bringing things like superfast broadband to Bradford, supporting the and a billion pounds to be spent on transport and highways across the city region area. But Leeds is getting the Trolleybus scheme and the enterprise zone in the east of the city. Leeds is of course the biggest city, with the biggest economy out of all the districts, but one could be forgiven that the Leeds name, is mainly a positive thing for Leeds but not the other nine districts.
The 72 To Leeds

How does the Leeds-Bradford relationship compare with those in other city regions?

Bradford – with a population of half a million is by far the biggest 'junior partner' in all of the Northern England city regions, not to mention there are five cities in the Leeds City region (Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Ripon and York). This compares to two cities in Manchester city region and two in the Tyne/Wear city region and one or none in the others. The Leeds City Region seems to be a much bigger area than the other ones, the City Region website boasts it is the second biggest city region outside of the capital. Leeds does not sit seem to sit comfortably at the centre of a city region like Sheffield or Manchester do... and I wonder how many Mackems would be happy at being part of the Newcastle city region. I think West Yorkshire is the way to go on this one!

So the answer to the question is:
The city region itself is not a bad thing, it helps bring money into the city of Bradford. It is just the name, that
a) it makes it a harder thing to sell to local businesses
b) it diminishes the pride of Bradford, as well as Wakefield and York, and;
c) Potentially helps reinforce the gap between the Leeds economy and the rest, rather than helping the rest catch up and helping the local area as a whole capture more growth.

I don't think its a parochial thing to stand up for the city the size of Bradford. I think there is a far more compelling argument for the Leeds city region to have a name reflecting a wider area, than the likes of Manchester or Liverpool. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

You're not going to like this

I was going to go into full rant mode, but basically:
Was in London for Olympics at the weekend, was brilliant
Stark contrast with Bradford, i.e. how quiet this city is and lack of investment in comparison
Still no real news on Westfield
Seen two fights in 20 hours outside my flat, as well as seeing alcoholics all over the shop
Economy is in double dip recession
Government not committing any money to anything

We know it has potential, hell, we really know this. We know that there are some reasons to be positive, it is not all negative. But there are a lot of negative things that needs addressing.

How is this going to happen?  Give me hope someone!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Get Bradford Working

The Council have announced a £7.7m scheme, 'Get Bradford Working' which according to the Council will "provide approximately 390 new jobs, 400 new apprenticeships, 300 work experience placements, 600 qualifications, 525 sustained job outcomes and 5 new studio schools with 1500 school places linked to business" .  This aims to get more workers qualified and will create around 350 intermediate jobs, which is indeed a commendable effort.  There are over 19,000 jobseekers allowance claimaints, over 4,000 of these for a year or more in the district, so whilst it is a welcome initiative, it is not a solution to the 'worklessness' affecting the district.  Furthermore, the funding runs for two years, so it is a concern how the efforts into tackling unemployment and stimulating the economy will be sustained.

To create jobs, help improve the image of the city centre (and other centres in the district) there are other approaches that could be pursued.  Some of these would of course require a whole new pot of regeneration cash, others less so and others would require the co-operation of property owners and other organisations in the city.
Queensgate Market, Huddersfield
Over the border, Kirklees Council are offering free 'taster' market stalls and are running a competition for prospective stallholders to have a free stall for a longer period of time, at Queensgate market, above.  This would be easy for the council to implement, because the stalls are in their ownership. Another idea, perhaps requiring more cash, would be to a run a scheme with the owner of vacant retail property.  The shop owner gets a discounted fit out on their store, on condition they give discounted rent to a shopkeeper for a prolonged period of time.  This idea could indeed go beyond retail property and to many of the city's large mill buildings, such as those in Goitside below,  which could be used for creative purposes or even large buildings in the city centre such as Sunwin House and the Highpoint building.    A city centre property trust, as explored in the DIY regeneration post could be another way to get such property back into positive use.
Vincent Street, Bradford
Such schemes to bring property back into use would create opportunities for employment and enterprise.  It would help give Bradford a competitive edge to attract new business start ups and businesses relocating from other areas.  A number of non-retail uses in shops such as bars and cafés would help make the city centre a more attractive place to live and perhaps revitalise the city centre residential market.  This would hopefully improve the image of the city centre and make it a better proposition for national multiple retailers.

This may sound a bit visionary, but that's the point.  Let's get Bradford working.