City is look­ing up but avail­able land prov­ing an is­sue

Yorkshire Post - Business - - BUSINESS / VOICES - Al­lan Booth Chair, Brad­ford Prop­erty Fo­rum & Mem­ber of Brad­ford Cham­ber Lead­er­ship Group

Brad­ford is mak­ing good and solid progress in many ar­eas – both within busi­ness and out­side it. A suc­cess­ful visit to the in­ter­na­tional prop­erty con­fer­ence, MIPIM, as part of the Leeds City Re­gion del­e­ga­tion, took place last month. City re­gen­er­a­tion is con­tin­u­ing and other good things are hap­pen­ing, such as im­prov­ing ed­u­ca­tion at­tain­ment lev­els.

Phase Two of the Broad­way re­tail and leisure de­vel­op­ment is well un­der­way, and the Odeon re­de­vel­op­ment scheme has the sup­port of the com­pany be­hind Birm­ing­ham’s NEC – surely a vote of con­fi­dence. Else­where, Bar­clays pub­lished sur­vey find­ings in late 2017 stat­ing that the city is the best place in the coun­try in which to start a busi­ness.

There is also in­creas­ing pres­sure to bring the pro­posed North­ern Pow­er­house Rail line through the city, with a city cen­tre sta­tion, which will make a trans­for­ma­tional dif­fer­ence to lo­cal for­tunes.

So, good things are hap­pen­ing, con­fi­dence is grow­ing and many busi­nesses are look­ing to ex­pand – and there’s the rub. In or­der to ac­com­mo­date this growth, ex­pan­sion and suc­cess, there needs to be suf­fi­cient land avail­able for busi­nesses, de­vel­op­ers and other in­vestors to plan, build or grow.

Brad­ford’s eco­nomic growth strat­egy (pub­lished in March) high­lights the need to bring for­ward more land for de­vel­op­ment for com­mer­cial and in­dus­trial use, as well as hous­ing, to meet grow­ing de­mand. The strat­egy has been pro­duced in part­ner­ship by the coun­cil, busi­ness and com­mu­nity groups; it is am­bi­tious and is sup­ported by the Cham­ber. The strat­egy sets out to in­crease the district’s econ­omy by £4bn, get­ting 20,000 more peo­ple into work and rais­ing the skill lev­els of 48,000 to NVQ3 – all by 2030.

In sup­port­ing the am­bi­tions within the growth strat­egy, Brad­ford Cham­ber of Com­merce is about to pub­lish a re­port ex­am­in­ing the need to iden­tify suit­able sites for em­ploy­ment land. The pur­pose of this re­port is to help the nec­es­sary dis­cus­sions be­tween plan­ners, agents, de­vel­op­ers and the coun­cil to fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic growth and ap­pro­pri­ate de­vel­op­ment in the right places.

Com­pa­nies look at sev­eral fac­tors when de­cid­ing where to lo­cate/re-lo­cate, in­clud­ing: avail­abil­ity of ap­pro­pri­ately skilled staff; com­mut­ing con­ve­nience and

ac­cess to road and rail net­works; prox­im­ity to sup­ply chains and cus­tomers along with sup­port­ing busi­ness ser­vices, ca­pac­ity to grow and over­all costs. So, hav­ing a range of sites, across the district, of dif­fer­ent sizes, to suit dif­fer­ent sec­tors, is cru­cial at both a mi­croand macro-level.

Brad­ford’s Core Strat­egy – the District’s Lo­cal Plan – has iden­ti­fied the need for an ad­di­tional 135 hectares of em­ploy­ment land in years to come. De­spite an ex­pand­ing econ­omy and fast-grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, there is cur­rently less land avail­able for de­vel­op­ment over­all than there was five years ago.

The Cham­ber of Com­merce re­port, put to­gether by mem­bers of Brad­ford’s Prop­erty Fo­rum, in­cludes ex­am­ples of com­pa­nies fac­ing chal­lenges as they seek to ex­pand.

The Cham­ber is work­ing closely with other stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing the lo­cal au­thor­ity, to ad­dress the is­sue, but there will, no doubt, be some tough de­ci­sions to take. Ap­proval was given re­cently to a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment in Keigh­ley, in which more than half of the 26-acre site is lo­cated in the green belt – it seems likely that other sen­si­tive is­sues sim­i­lar to this may crop up again in the fu­ture.

In re­la­tion to land for hous­ing, while it gen­er­ally com­mands higher val­ues, we be­lieve it should not be pri­ori­tised to the detri­ment of em­ploy­ment land iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Other po­ten­tial so­lu­tions in­clude land swaps, whereby pub­licly-owned sites are ‘traded’ with pri­vately-owned ones to help fa­cil­i­tate, for ex­am­ple, re­gen­er­a­tion, or re­duce mar­ket block­ages. This could be an ap­pro­pri­ate so­lu­tion when as­sess­ing ex­ist­ing em­ploy­ment land al­lo­ca­tions that are con­sid­ered un­suit­able due to to­po­graphic or in­fras­truc­ture re­lated is­sues.

These sites may be more ap­pro­pri­ate for hous­ing and might be ‘swapped’ with sites that are more ap­pro­pri­ate for in­dus­try; for ex­am­ple, sites cur­rently on flood plains or close to ma­jor trans­port cor­ri­dors. Ac­cess to pub­licly under-writ­ten bridg­ing fi­nance might be help­ful and al­low com­pa­nies to move and ex­pand with­out too much short-term cash flow im­pli­ca­tions.

The Cham­ber, via its work un­der­taken in the Prop­erty Fo­rum, be­lieves that there is an ur­gent need to up­date Brad­ford’s Em­ploy­ment Land Re­view, last up­dated in 2011. Brad­ford Prop­erty Fo­rum and the Cham­ber gen­er­ally stands ready to sup­port the coun­cil in de­vel­op­ing an em­ploy­ment land pol­icy that will fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic growth and, in turn, de­liver greater pros­per­ity and job op­por­tu­ni­ties for the cit­i­zens of the Brad­ford District.


PIC­TURE THIS: The Odeon re­de­vel­op­ment scheme in Brad­ford has the sup­port of the com­pany be­hind Birm­ing­ham’s NEC.

Al­lan is a di­rec­tor with Rance Booth Smith Ar­chi­tects in Sal­taire

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