After decades of decay and decline, Bradford’s City Centre seems to be on its path to recovery. The recent reports in the national media suggest some sympathy and leniency in depicting the district.
Bradford’s image was badly bruised and brutalised after the two riots. The city, invariably, was portrayed as a very dangerous place to live and to invest by some sections of the media. Sadly, since then, all the successive national governments treated Bradford with indifference and obliviousness. The local governments also miserably suffered from feckless leadership and unimaginative, nebulous and unsustainable regeneration and economic policies.
Now after prolonged efforts made by Bradfordians including some of their representatives, the redevelopment of the city centre has commenced. It is showing speedy progress and hopefully will meet the target of completion by the end of next year.
Associated with this expensive project [Westfield], are the plans to build four new leisure sports centres, renewing of the adjacent streets to the new shopping centre and improvement of nearby roads in the area. Also, the revamping of the dilapidated Odeon cinema will be a valuable addition to the city’s cultural life and maybe a new attraction to entice tourists to the city.
However, the catalyst for most of the new initiatives was the development of City Park which started the ball rolling. The point to not forget, though, is we need the process of rejuvenation to continue to uplift this city’s economy. It is also quite apparent this process will take a great deal of time to accomplish. Nevertheless, Bradford seems to be on the right track after a long time.
The fears of any after effects of the Westfield project on the established part of the shopping area must be thoroughly examined now and serious attempts be made to allay these concerns without any unnecessary delay. To overlook these may mar the momentum and enthusiasm that is required to bring this city back to its feet.
Bradford with its syncretic and diverse mix of race, ethnicity and religious practices as well as the young population has to be acknowledged as its strength and not weakness. It is a unique city in many respects. With many of its cultures trying to seek accommodation with each other, this could be explored and encourage its residents to work together as Bradfordians to promote and safeguard the commonly shared interests of their great City. The future economy of the district in many ways will depend upon its strategic ability to consult and involve all communities at its planning stage for any new policies. One of the novel initiatives could be to develop and promote Bradford as an international City of leisure and culture. All the possible ingredients to realise this dream are present locally.
Most importantly the Council in cooperation with Chambers of Trade, Bradford University, and big businesses, has to explore every possible avenue to invite more investment to the city. The National Government must assist the local efforts in reviving the economy of the area. There is a big question mark, however for the success of the new shopping centre. Can it survive without the city achieving economic growth in other areas to argument the income of its citizens? The spending capacity of Bradfordians will be a decisive factor in determining the success or failure of the new shopping centre.
It would be wrong to predict doom and gloom for the future of the city but there should be no room for complacency and no need for despondency.
However, Bradford still has a bumpy road ahead but surely it has the ability and capability to cross all these bumps safely and successfully with prudent political leadership and its people working together for a better future for all.
Mohammed Ajeeb CBE
Former Lord Mayor of Bradford