The Leader and Transport Portfolio Holder of Bradford Metropolitan District Council have welcomed support from one of the area’s biggest firms for plans for a £7 million scheme to ease traffic congestion.
Council Leader, Coun. Susan Hinchcliffe, and Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, Coun. Alex Ross-Shaw, were part of a small delegation on a fact-finding visit to Steeton-based Acorn Stairlifts. During the visit there was an opportunity for the business to raise any concerns which the council might be able to address.
Company Secretary Dave Belmont said that traffic congestion between Steeton and the M606 motorway at Bradford caused significant delays for its installers, who fit stairlifts in customers’ home across the UK. He welcomed plans to widen Hard Ings Road, at Keighley, a short section of single carriageway road linking the A629 past Steeton with the A650 Aire Valley Road towards Bingley, which are both dual carriageways. Hard Ings Road has become a notorious bottleneck, causing long delays at peak times.
Back in January, the council agreed the legal orders that would allow it to buy the land, if necessary, in order to widen Hard Ings Road. Discussions are currently taking place with landowners. The scheme, being delivered through a West Yorkshire Combined Authority fund, is expected to be completed within the next four years.
“As a Steeton-based business it can’t come soon enough for us,” said Mr Belmont. “Our installers estimate that they could carry out one extra installation per day if it wasn’t for time lost sitting in traffic, and Hard Ings is a major contributor to that.”
Coun. Ross-Shaw welcomed the input and suggested the company’s views could play a role in helping shape the council’s transport plans, especially regarding Hard Ings and links to the M606.
Also taking part in the fact-finding visit were council officers Paul North, in charge of regeneration for Keighley and district, and Mark Delves, the council’s SME Growth Manager for Airedale and Craven. It included a factory tour led by Senior Operations Manager Nick Wilson and a presentation by Mr Belmont, who outlined the history of the company, its growth over 25 years and its current operation as the world’s biggest largest dedicated manufacturer of stairlifts.
Founded in Bradford in 1992, Acorn Stairlifts now manufactures more than 60,000 stairlifts per year at its factories in Steeton, Shipley and Scotland, selling direct to consumers throughout the UK and exporting to 82 countries. With exports now accounting for two-thirds of its near £150m turnover, Acorn has wholly-owned subsidiaries in Ireland, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, where it is the market leader for stairlifts.
Coun. Hinchcliffe, who was elected leader of the council in May this year, said: “Bradford Council is keen to see businesses flourishing in the district and has a specialist team which offers advice and support to help them expand and prosper. Acorn is a long-established company which believes in developing its staff and providing good training opportunities, which we fully support.
“Coming from a business background myself, I love to visit other businesses in the area to see what they produce and to learn how they operate and contribute to the local economy. It is really good to see that Acorn Stairlifts is investing in people and making a great product that is sold globally.”
Speaking after the visit, Mr Belmont added: “We were delighted to host Coun. Hinchcliffe and her group for what we all agreed was a very informative, useful and mutually beneficial visit. I’d like to thank them for taking the time to learn about our business and we look forward to working closely with Bradford Council in future.”
Bradford Coun. Leader Coun. Susan Hinchcliffe with Acorn Stairlifts Company Secretary Dave Belmont.