Why don’t we just stay as the best town in the UK?

Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

ARE we hav­ing an iden­tity cri­sis?

How an area iden­ti­fies and brands it­self is key to its suc­cess, but talk this week of turn­ing Hud­der­s­field into a city has di­vided peo­ple.

The busi­ness com­mu­nity seem to think it’s a good idea.

The Ex­am­iner’s front page head­line ‘let’s turn this town into a city’ was pos­i­tive – as a lo­cal pa­per we should sup­port any­one who puts their ef­fort into rais­ing the pro­file of our town even more.

From the hun­dreds of com­ments I’ve seen on so­cial me­dia there is a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity about drop­ping our town and be­com­ing a city. I tend to agree with them. Other than a burst of pub­lic­ity in the short term, I can’t see in the long run what dif­fer­ence city sta­tus for Hud­der­s­field will make.

It gives the im­pres­sion that we think Hud­der­s­field as a city would be strong enough not to need our neigh­bours for suc­cess. But we do need them. Thou­sands of peo­ple leave our town ev­ery day and travel else­where to work. We’re not parochial when we want a job.

Thou­sands of peo­ple travel into Hud­der­s­field to study; leave to go shop­ping, to gigs, restau­rants, on hol­i­day; visit as tourists; and we may one day have to leave Hud­der­s­field to go to hospi­tal – I hope not!

I feel peo­ple think in terms of bor­ders ge­o­graph­i­cally, yet not in ev­ery day prac­tice.

The busi­ness lead­ers say that be­com­ing a city will at­tract new in­dus­try.

They know far more about busi­ness than I do, but as a layper­son I think it’s more sim­ple than that.

I think new in­dus­try will be at­tracted by cheap and avail­able land, favourable rates and good ac­cess links.

Land is­sue is a bone of con­tention and be­ing de­bated cur­rently with the in­quiry into the Lo­cal Plan.

Com­pared to the pop­u­la­tion of Hud­der­s­field or Kirklees, only a hand­ful of peo­ple will shape that ar­gu­ment. The peo­ple who will de­ter­mine the out­come are plan­ning in­spec­tors.

Busi­ness rates are set by gov­ern­ment, but that could change if the Leeds City Re­gion (LCR) or York­shire wres­tle pow­ers away from the gov­ern­ment.

And our voice in the LCR, which Kirklees Coun­cil is part of, and York­shire is stronger than our voice coun­try­wide.

Ma­jor ac­cess links that could at­tract new in­dus­try are also not de­cided solely at a lo­cal level and it won’t be funded solely by Kirklees Coun­cil. Such de­ci­sions are made at a higher level – a mix of gov­ern­ment, the cur­rent LCR set-up and Kirklees Coun­cil.

I fear Hud­der­s­field pro­mot­ing it­self as a city would be in con­flict with the work that is tak­ing place to boost the re­gion as a whole.

And if the re­gion as a whole pros­pers, we take a share of the spoils.

So which is the stronger ban­ner for us to pros­per un­der?

Pre­vi­ously, when peo­ple asked where I was from I replied ‘Manch­ester’ when in fact I grew up in a town in Tame­side, a bor­ough of Greater Manch­ester.

It’s eas­ier glob­ally to up­scale our­selves to the near­est ma­jor city or re­gion.

Nowa­days, I’d re­ply that I live in York­shire. I feel as the York­shire brand is so iconic it’s that which we need to tap into.

What we need to do is brand our­selves within it.

What do we as a bor­ough want to be known for? What should our brand in the wider re­gion be?

Tex­tiles, man­u­fac­tur­ing, the uni­ver­sity’s re­search work, our vil­lages as tourism lo­ca­tions, our towns and build­ings as TV and film lo­ca­tions, our ru­ral beauty - these are the things that sell our area.

And some of those fall out­side Hud­der­s­field ge­o­graph­i­cally.

Let’s be the best town rather than at the end of the city list.

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