Senior Council chiefs in Bradford were quizzed recently (6 Nov) by the local business community about various economic development programmes.
A senior team of City Hall officers fielded questions on a range of topics from a property and professional services audience. In particular, the formulation for calculating future housing needs was challenged, while more high quality development schemes are needed in places like Little Germany, said the attendees. On a related topic, concern was raised over the time-frame needed to allocate land sites for employment and housing – it will be 2021 before the necessary statutory documents are processed.
The panel were challenged by one questioner to develop a procurement policy that supports more local businesses, which was countered with a response confirming that a review is currently underway. Many local businesses perceive that, when it comes to tendering for public sector work, the lowest price always wins – not necessarily always good for the local economy. The panel argued that deciding on bids was always a balance between quality and value.
Transport, in particular the proposed high-speed rail link between Leeds and Manchester, with a stop in Bradford, was another talking point, with most in the room agreeing this should be a top priority for the city. Attendees were also urged to pledge their support for the ‘Next Stop Bradford’ campaign to bring the route through the city, by visiting http://www.nextstopbradford.com/pledge-support/.
Eyebrows were raised, however, when the audience was told that Bradford was unlikely to mirror its nearest neighbour by having a city centre dominated by professionals in suits. The meeting heard that it was unlikely that Bradford could compete with the corporate face of Leeds in this area, and that it needed to recognise its own strengths. That view was challenged by some, who expressed concern that, without the offices and professionals, Bradford could face further difficulties in other areas, such as a declining retail and evening economy.
The Bradford Property Forum/Professionals’ Network event was chaired by Allan Booth of Rance Booth Smith Architects, and the panel was made up of Kersten England (Chief Executive), Steve Hartley (Director of Place) and Shelagh O’Neill (Assistant Director, Economy & Development). The event took place at the Midland Hotel.
Allan said afterwards:
“The event was a great opportunity to put senior Council officers on the spot over how they see the city changing in years to come; it was also a platform for businesses to voice their views, concerns and suggestions. Meetings like this are needed to provide that platform for a two-way dialogue between business and the Council, to enable both sides to work as closely as possible to help make the District more successful and prosperous.”
Roger Thompson, Chair of Bradford Professionals’ Network, added:
“I am pleased that we do have a listening Council here in Bradford. That’s not always been the case, but I do feel that our views are taken seriously in City Hall. We all want to see change happening on a regular basis, and consistently, but we have to remember that budgets have been hit in recent years and that the Council cannot make things happen alone.”
Bradford Property Forum and Professionals’ Network are two sector-specific groups run by West & North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce. For more information on future Chamber events, visit http://www.wnychamber.co.uk/