Recovery will benefit cities that seize opportunities says ex-BBC boss Greg Dyke

The cities and organisations which emerge strongest from the Covid-19 pandemic will be those who have identified and seized the opportunities it presents, the former BBC director-general and Football Association chairman will tell a panel in York on Tuesday.

Greg Dyke

Greg Dyke, who was also Chancellor of the University of York for 11 years, will lead a satellite-based discussion on how the city can emerge from the crisis and what it can learn from previous disasters.

Among those taking part will be Joanna Norris, head of the development agency in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the business district was ripped apart by an earthquake nine years ago.

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“The one thing we know from the experience there is that communities do recover,” said Mr Dyke, who is the current chairman of the tourism and marketing organisation, Make It York.

“The questions for us now are how do we come out of this and what are the opportunities. The downside is pretty scary, but the people who will do best, and avoid the worst of it, will be those who identify the opportunities.

“The businesses that will struggle most to survive are the ones that were in trouble before all this began.”

He added: “Planning recovery is hugely complex and there is no doubt that it will be tough. But in some ways it gives York a real opportunity to be ambitious about how economic recovery and growth is driven forward.

“York is a unique city with a history of being able to reinvent itself and show adaptability and resilience in the face of what may seem like insurmountable challenges.”

Mr Dyke, who was a student in York in the 1960s, said the city’s tourism industry was well placed to benefit from the emergence from quarantine, since – despite a recent surge in travel from the far east – most visitors still came from Britain,

“The foreign market will be hit worst,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “Who’s going to travel abroad if they have to spend two weeks in isolation before they can see anything.”

But he said the hotel industry, including his own companies in the sector, would find it hard to judge when to reopen. “The question is how soon to take staff off furlough – because you don’t want the expense of running a hotel that’s only 20 per cent full,” he said.

Mr Dyke also said the development at York Central, the large brownfield site near the railway station which the council has identified for housing and businesses, was also an opportunity for economic recovery.

Tuesday’s conference is being hosted by the university as part of an annual, fortnight-long “festival of ideas”. The vice-Chancellor, Professor Charlie Jeffery, said it would outline plans for “driving skills, innovation, growth, inward investment and support for inclusive economic growth”.

Others involved will include Signe Jungersted, chief executive of a travel group which helped transform tourism in the Danish capital of Copenhagen.

Separately, the council in York has announced that it will “incentivise” short-stay parking in the city centre for the first year after lockdown, to help revive the tourist trade. It has also promised improved cycle parking and traffic-free streets for visitors.

Council leader Keith Aspden said: “Our new strategy is a clear and coherent city-wide plan designed to support economic recovery, lock in as many of the active transport benefits as possible and be easily adaptable should government restrictions change.”

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