Bradford often fails to get the exposure a district with a half-a-million-plus population deserves. However, Bradford’s recent appointment as UK City of Culture 2025 is likely to offer the city a golden opportunity to promote itself better at last. So, we will take an early look at regeneration and development activity, as well as the possible impact of the City of Culture award.
First some background: Bradford grew wealthy in the nineteenth century as a result of its extensive textile industry, becoming regarded as the ‘wool capital of the world’. However, it has been hard hit by the decline of its key industry in recent decades. The post-industrial city has struggled to rebuild its economy and has had to contend with a number of social problems, including high levels of deprivation, in some places.
There are many good news stories in Bradford, however. The industrial years left Bradford with a rich architectural and cultural heritage, entrepreneurial spirit, good road infrastructure, large workforce, and relatively low land and property prices. There are a number of successful, modern industries here including advanced engineering, chemicals, light manufacturing, financial services and digital technologies. The district also has a growing reputation for its media production.
Local authority figures suggest the Bradford economy is worth £11.6bn making it the third largest economy in Yorkshire and the Humber and the tenth largest city economy in England. They add that Bradford’s economy grew by 16% over the five years to 2019.
Bradford is also said to be the youngest city in the UK. Just over a quarter of the population are aged under 18, compared with around a fifth of the population nationally. It also very diverse and multicultural, with ethnic minorities making up just over a third of the population.
Bradford’s other strengths include good road infrastructure compared to many places, both around the city and to the wider region, including via the M606 link to the M62. Rail links are more limited though. The local authority has a long-term ambition to see the city connected to a Northern Powerhouse Rail line offering a link to Leeds in 7 minutes and Manchester in 20 minutes. This seems unlikely to be realised anytime soon, however.