The announcement that almost £60m in Government funding will be given to two towns in the Bradford district will make a huge difference to businesses in those towns on the road to recovery from the pandemic. Keighley and Shipley will be given the money to pay for town investment plans intended to transform and rejuvenate town centres and surrounding area.
And business will be right at the heart of those plans, with Town Deal Boards for both towns being led by private sector business leaders and including other private sector representatives as well as figures from the public sector and community groups.
Damian Holmes takes a closer look at what that funding could bring to the two towns and how it will boost the local economies.
The announcement saw Keighley was given £33.6m and Shipley given £25m on the strength of town plans they put forward showing how they would spend the money to build stronger and more resilient local economies.
The fund is intended to support locally-led projects to transform disused buildings and public spaces and to create new opportunities for people in the towns to learn new skills.
Both Keighley and Shipley set up Town Deal Boards, led in both cases by private sector business leaders, to draw up and now implement the plans. For Keighley, the funding proved to be £8.6m more than they had expected, with central Government deciding the strength of their bid was deserving of the £33.6m given.
Now attention will turn to implementing the various strands of that plan to transform Keighley town centre. Ian Hayfield, of local property firm Hayfield Robinson, will have a leading role in that as chair of the board.
He says the funding was “absolutely fantastic news” and would be a “game changer” for the town.
“A lot of hard work has been put into achieving this by people across the sectors,” he added. “It’s a large pot of money and will be a game changer for Keighley.
“There is now more hard work ahead as we develop the business cases for each project, but this is such a massive plus for the town.”
And vice-chairman, Keighley College principal Steve Kelly, said: “This is incredible news which will give a fantastic boost to what is already a great town. It will provide investment in the skills of people of all ages. And so many community projects will benefit.”
The college is set to play a large part in the implementation of the plans, as part of the cash will be used to create a new skills hub and a centre for manufacturing, engineering and future technology – both of which will be sponsored by the college.
Steve said: “This is a particularly exciting time for Keighley College and we are keen to recruit new and committed team members to join us on our journey as we continue to grow.
“The college is at the heart of the community and has a key role to play, thanks to our skills provision and exceptional industry links to agencies like Skills House, JobCentre Plus and the Department for Work and Pensions.
“Our work – and that of other organisations across the district – is driving the skills agenda and helping the economic and social regeneration of the town and region.”
The government funding will also contribute funds towards a new Keighley Health and Wellbeing Centre to improve local healthcare services.
A £15m Development Investment Fund will be established to bring brownfield sites back into use, creating new spaces for businesses to grow, as well as space for new start-ups.
Public transport infrastructure will also be upgraded to provide better and more reliable services, including real time bus information, alongside new town centre improvements – including the regeneration of Low Street, improvements to Church Yard and Albert Yard, and a major tree planting programme across Keighley.
Community groups will also benefit through a new Community Grant Scheme specifically for Keighley and parts of the Worth Valley to help smaller community projects get a share of the funds. There are also plans for community arts hub creating a cultural destination in Keighley town centre and supporting the development of the Keighley Art and Film Festival and establishing a textile academy.
Keighley MP and board member, Robbie Moore, said: “This has been a huge team effort and I am delighted with the result.
“We in Keighley have been forgotten and ignored for too long and this Towns Fund will be a key stepping stone in helping us transform our community.
“The projects will help deliver transformational change for Keighley, creating opportunities and driving forward economic growth. As we begin our recovery from Covid-19, this huge £33.6m boost will help our town deliver more jobs, better education and healthcare, improve public transport and much more.”
And current town mayor, Councillor Julie Adams, shared the delight, saying: “I would like to thank those on the Town Deal Board whose efforts helped to secure the £33.6 million.
“This could be a real game changer for Keighley – and the town council will work in partnership with the board, Bradford Council and other partners to ensure the funding makes a real difference to the people of Keighley and their town.”
The money will also be transformational in Shipley and the surrounding area, including Saltaire.
Adam Clerkin, chair of the Town Deal Board, said: “This is fantastic news for Shipley. The team has worked very hard to submit this bid and will continue to work hard to achieve the best possible outcome for our town.”
And Shipley MP Philip Davies, who is also a member of the Town Deal Board, said: “I have been lobbying hard for Government support for our area, setting out the case for regeneration and I am thrilled the Government listened and has seen how much potential the Shipley constituency has and what investing in it can achieve.
“I am delighted this money will be handed specifically for Shipley by the government.
“I am extremely grateful to everyone who came together on the Town Fund Board for Shipley to put together this successful bid, not least the Chairman Adam Clerkin. Their dedication is very much appreciated and has been rewarded.”
Shipley’s Market Square and public spaces will be areas targeted for improvement for the fund, along with connectivity in and around the town.
A fund will be set up to restore and repurpose buildings in the town and to redevelop sites not being used for commercial and residential use. There will also be funds allocated to supporting small businesses to grow and adapt, along with work to develop skills and entrepreneurship for the local workforce, specifically including developing digital skills.
The exhibition space in Shipley Library will be developed and upgraded to be used to showcase local entrepreneurs, craftspeople, makers and small businesses. And work will be done to improve local assets to encourage healthy habits and exercise such as work at Wrose Quarry Wetlands to regeneratie the heritage site there and encourage walking.
There will also be a community hub offering volunteering, social community events, wellbeing and personal development opportunities, and a health and wellbeing campus offering wide range of integrated support services delivered by a skilled workforce and a team of volunteers trained in engaging, assessing, motivating and giving people the tools to improve their health and wellbeing.
For Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, the Town Fund money will prove invaluable as the district comes out of the pandemic.
He said: “This funding will give Shipley and Keighley a major economic boost and help the towns to recover from the economic downturn.
“Council officers and board members have worked incredibly hard on these bids and this success clearly reflects the strong spirit of private and public cooperation within the partnerships.
“This funding will unlock the incredibly potential of these towns and we look forward to working with local partners to make the most of this incredible opportunity.”