Bradford can benefit and grow alongside Leeds as part of Leeds City Region – but there are things we can do, right now as citizens to take regeneration into our own hands.

I challenge you to look up next time you visit Bradford. It is a city with listed heritage buildings, ‘To Let’ signs, redundant 1960’s brutalism and vacant development plots. Call me crazy but this mixed palate and unique canvas rather excites me.

The citizens of Bradford currently await major Central Government led Urban Regeneration in Bradford as the sole driver to improving their city. However, 21st century investments are only justified by their return. Rather than wait, the citizens of the Metropolitan District of Bradford may have to attempt to regenerate their city themselves, in order to positively redefine national and global perceptions.

This is by no means a criticism of the citizens of the district but an attempt to highlight the disengagement between them and those who govern them. Whilst the local council look outside of the city for investment, they are missing an opportunity to engage their citizens in this development process.  After all it is ‘their perceptions that impact on decisions they make to “support” and invest in the city or go elsewhere’.[1]

Goverment investment is needed but there is more that Bradford could do to enable small-scale citizen-led investment.

Central Government investment is undoubtedly needed in the city. However it would seem that this will not be forthcoming anytime soon. Decisions made by central Government to relocate the Tax Office to neighbouring Leeds simply avoid the obvious need for better national train connectivity to Bradford, which would require major investment. I am aware there are talks of this, but Bradford needs action today, not when its GVA (Gross Value Added) meets the threshold for potential return for the Government.

The worry for me is that the council are not doing enough to engage the wealthy hinterland towns where large percentages of the 534,300 residents of the district live. I certainly don’t have the answer in how they attempt to do this, but there is no doubt it is an issue that needs addressing if Bradford is to successfully regenerate. As the city struggles to attract major external investors, I often wonder why there are not more schemes and programmes offered by the council to allow its citizens to accessibly invest in city centre developments.

Although I place some emphasis on the council’s role here, I do believe they are moving the city in the right direction. There are other organisations in the city that could do more to attract residents from the wider district to the city centre. Venues like the National Science & Media Museum and Bradford Live (when it arrives) should be big influencing factors to visit the city. Touring shows, exhibitions or installations around the district could act as teasers in an attempt to introduce these amazing places to those currently un-engaged with the city.

How might we see everyday life in Bradford as also being an act of citizenship?

I challenge you to consider Bradford next time you want a night on the ale, evening at the cinema or a morning coffee. After all you are the citizen that pays their taxes to the city of Bradford, this is your investment. So back your investment in the small ways you can and you will see a return.

Once the citizens start to do this, be sure to leave space on the band wagon for when the government wakes up and finally realises the potential of this sleeping giant.

[1] Van Riel, C.B.M,  (2000), ‘Bradford breakthrough’, unpublished presentation to Erasmus, University of Rotterdam. Bradford University School of Management, Bradford, 12 May.

Kieran Thompson is studying Architecture at Manchester University, lives in Bradford and is a member of the Civic Society.

Posted by:Helen Graham