Bradford will fail future generations if air and travel are not improved - Susan Hinchcliffe

As politicians and public sector leaders, it is our job to champion our towns and cities, set the vision for an ambitious future and work in partnership to bring about change.

But a question that is often overlooked is “why?” Why do we need to drive such transformational change? Why is change even necessary?

Perhaps raising such questions seems obvious or too simplistic. Yet it matters, even if we don’t always take the time to step back and reflect.

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Bradford is about to embark on an ambitious programme of transformational improvements across the district which will change the way we travel, work and live.

Bradford skyline, dominated by Manningham Mills. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Improving the air we breathe, bettering public health and creating a place of increased opportunity will help to fulfil our ambition of becoming the UK’s leading “clean growth” district.

A significant part of this huge investment will be delivered via the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) and Bradford’s share of £317m of funding secured by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to deliver new infrastructure and help create a step change in travel across the region.

In reply to the “why” question, the answer is that if we don’t bring the change needed now, we will have failed future generations.

The Bradford district is a place of great opportunity. We’re the youngest city in the UK, with almost a quarter of our population under 16. We have an obligation to our children and grandchildren to leave behind a district that works for them. We’ve been steadfast in our campaign to secure a Northern Powerhouse Rail station in Bradford, which forms an important part of our long-term vision for the district.

But looking to the immediate future, the need is equally great. I’m immensely proud of the energy and drive that characterises Bradford. We are a dynamic city with unique key strengths that is attracting significant levels of inward investment.

The Bradford Live project is well under way. Construction is beginning on the Darley Street Market, which will see a new modern market building and public square created. These are just two of a number of transformational projects.

But without improved transport connectivity, and better public spaces, the city is unlikely to reach its potential.

We know that Bradford needs to improve its physical environment. We also need to be forward-thinking to tackle big policy challenges to protect people’s health and reduce pollution.

Clean growth is something we, as a district, have led the way on. We were one of the first local authorities to declare a climate emergency in 2019 and commit to net zero carbon by 2038.

Our Clean Air Zone will be launched early next year, but getting our transport infrastructure right is a big part of this plan.

The programme of transport measures planned through the Transforming Cities Fund will be crucial in achieving these ambitions, and equipping Bradford to reach its full potential.

Four ambitious TCF schemes are planned to span across the district, comprising additional cycleways, a new park and ride facility, improving the pedestrian environment in the city centre, and enhancing the entrance to Bradford Interchange to create a high-quality gateway. This type of investment is not only crucial to travel, but to clean, sustainable growth.

We want to make it easier and safer for people to cycle and walk around the city centre, creating an environment that people want to live and work in.

We want to create high quality public spaces that complement our fine heritage and make people want to be in the city centre to enjoy all we have to offer. And we need to improve bus routes, upon which so many people rely, to enable the whole city to get about in a way that works for their busy lives.

If we can deliver this, we will create the type of city centre that will position Bradford to become the UK’s clean growth capital. If we take advantage of our unique strengths, we can maximise the opportunities that exist, creating a high-quality environment, and delivering a vibrant, dynamic and successful city for all.

As we embark on this journey to create the type of city centre environment that will position Bradford to take advantage of its unique strengths, we’ll be calling on the support of people who live and work here.

There will be a public consultation on the TCF schemes this summer, and we will embrace a wide range of communications channels through this consultation to ensure everyone has the opportunity to have a say on the initial plans.

As we come out of lockdown and look towards the future, I hope those who live, work and visit Bradford will join the conversation. Over the next few months, we have the opportunity to enrich the focus, clarity and relevance of this once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure programme.