Aspen Woolf looks at whether Bradford could become the Shoreditch of Yorkshire

Bradford is growing quick although prices are still quite low.

With so many north western cities and towns undergoing a revival, with government support and mass-redevelopment, could it be Bradford’s turn for the same?

There are undeniably high levels of unemployment in Bradford, and some have dubbed it the most struggling city in Britain. But there is a movement to turn all of this around and kickstart its revival as a creative, thriving city with much to offer.

Creating alternative Bradford

Today, Bradford is no longer home to mills and mansions, as it was in Victorian times. Around 30% of adults in the city are out of work, and 40% of the wards are among the poorest in the country. While it does have the UK’s youngest population, it also has high levels of child poverty. Bradford is actually larger than Newcastle and wants to shrug off its reputation as the country’s most struggling city.

The CEO of Bradford Council, Kersten England, is very much behind this as she aims to ‘make Bradford the Shoreditch of Yorkshire’. However, Bradford is not asking for subsidies from London, nor is it competing with the recent boom in places like Leeds and Liverpool, instead there is a movement to revive an ‘alternative Bradford’.

Sunbridgewells success

While it seems an uphill struggle in some ways, there is definite hope for the future. At the moment, around 90% of property in the very centre of the city is apparently vacant. But there are many signs of life and progress.

In among a warren of old storage tunnels and caves there’s an area called Sunbridgewells. A local developer has invested £2 million in gin bars, craft beer pubs, food outlets and music venues and it’s seen as ground zero of the ‘creative hub’ of the city.

As with Shoreditch in London, when it became a hipster paradise, it’s hoped that people will begin flocking to Sunbridgewells. Nearby is the Assembly warehouse, a creative space for freelance publishers and designers. Run by David Craig, who reckons the space costs a fifth of what it would in Leeds, the Assembly is home to a few creative companies that have a passion for regenerating the city.

Another voice behind the new Bradford is architect Amir Hussain, who wants to persuade third generation Asians to move to the centre of the city and help to revitalise it.

Past town planning

There are generations of poor town planning behind Bradford’s current state. In the 1980s, the Victorian buildings were destroyed, and during a misguided rescue attempt in 2003, post-modern architect created what he called ‘dispersed centre’.

The council then added a massive shopping mall called Broadway, which took business away from any other retail outlets in the city. Today, there is a strong determination to restore Bradford back to its best, but with a different slant.

They aim to make central Bradford a place where people want to live and work, rather than a place from which people try to escape. This will take a massive effort as the city faces cuts of 40% to its budget over the last decade. Bright spots include the City Park, which cost more than £20 million, the relaunch of the Art Deco Odeon cinema and the annual literary festival.

Following examples

However, arts festivals and music venues don’t tend to draw residents, which is what is needed. The people behind the regeneration of Bradford aim to bring life back to the city. It’s been done before all around the world. In NYC, Manhattan’s Greenwich Village came back from the dead, as did Shoreditch in London and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.

They did it by taking enterprise and activity from nearby cities and regions. By attracting designers, writers and artists into some of the derelict buildings, others will also arrive. Today, Bradford looks to attract the digital entrepreneurs that are spearheading regeneration across the north. It will be exciting to see it happen.

A Guide to Investing in Property in Bradford

bradford city centre

Property is a great investment vehicle for several reasons. It can bring diversification to an existing investment portfolio, give you a stable income in an unstable world and help protect your money against inflation. However, choosing to invest in property is just the beginning.

Once you have made the decision to put some of your investment pot into property, you’ll find that quite a few other questions will follow, not least of which will be, ‘Where in the UK should my property investments be made?’. While many investors opt for their local area, savvy property tycoons recognise the importance of checking out all of the options available to them, which brings us nicely to this guide.

Today, we are going to explore a part of the United Kingdom that deserves more attention from investors than it often receives – Bradford.

Bradford at a glance

Situated in the foothills of the Pennines, Bradford is part of the United Kingdom’s fourth largest urban area – West Yorkshire Urban Area – and has a population of just over 500,000. The city enjoys a great location just 16 miles from Leeds and has extremely good links to the rest of the major northern cities that surround it, as well as easy access to the M1 motorway which links Northern and Southern England together.

 

A Guide to Investing in Property in Bradford Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Tim Green via Flickr


Steeped in heritage and culture, Bradford is a surprising city for many reasons. Architectural delights abound in Little Germany and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saltaire gives visitors the opportunity to experience a Victorian village in all its glory. Furthermore, Bradford is also the first ever UNESCO City of Film in the world, proving that this is a city that not only has a cultural past, but a cultural future, too.

That being said, it isn’t all about the city. Many people relocate to Bradford simply because it is so easy to escape the heart of the city and head for some of the most spectacular countryside that Britain has to offer. The northern tip of the world famous Peak District National Park is only a 40 minute drive away and the Yorkshire Dales National Park can be reached in around about the same time, too.

Then there is the modern side to Bradford, which is often referred to as the Curry Capital of Britain. The city’s multicultural nature makes Bradford a vibrant place to live, work and play. More and more people are ignoring the uneducated stereotypes that the city has been labelled with over the last few decades, and they’re discovering that Bradford is, in fact, a fabulous part of the United Kingdom in which they can set up home and business.

The economy of Bradford

Bradford’s economy is one of the strongest in the region and it is expected to top £9 billion in 2016. As many of you will already be aware, the de-industrialisation of the north hit the region hard, and Bradford did not escape the changes that were made. However, with time and lots of hard work, the city is now bouncing back to take its place as one of the major players in what many have dubbed the Northern Powerhouse.

The city, like so many others across the North of England, was once a hive of industry, with textiles being the main product that was manufactured here. This industrial heritage has been in decline for many years, but other forms of employment have emerged to take its place and the city now contributes around 8.4 per cent to the region’s overall output. This figure puts Bradford up there with the likes of Sheffield and Leeds as one of the largest economies in the Yorkshire and Humber district.

One of the key drivers in this change in fortune is the city’s growing appeal to financial companies such as Santander UK, Yorkshire Building Society and Provident Financial, with the latter being one of Bradford’s biggest employers. However, unlike other cities in the UK, it would be unfair to label Bradford as being purely devoted to one sector, as the different types of businesses that call the city home are extremely wide and varied.

Household names such as the supermarket giant Morrisons and the region’s water utility company Yorkshire Water have head offices here, while other companies that will be familiar to British citizens such as Hallmark Cards and Seabrook Potato Crisps also call the city home. In total, there are over 15,200 companies in Bradford that are employing in excess of 192,000 people, 15 per cent of the total employment figures for the whole of the Leeds City Region.

Thanks to being recognised by UNESCO twice and its ever growing mark on the British cultural landscape, Bradford’s economy also benefits tremendously from the tourist industry. Around 9.2 million people come to Bradford each year, and as the city’s reputation grows, so too will the visitor numbers and the city’s tourist economy. At present, 91 per cent of all visitors are domestic, but this figure could change as the city’s reputation spreads across the wider world.

 

A Guide to Investing in Property in Bradford Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Tim Green via Flickr


All in all, Bradford’s economy is in fine shape, but investors will also be pleased to hear that there is still room for improvement. As we will see in the upcoming sections of this guide, Bradford is attracting investment from both the public and private sectors, delivering a raft of wealth generating projects that will undoubtedly help push the city further forward over the coming months and years.

Regeneration and investment in Bradford

Bradford is currently undergoing some major regeneration projects that will certainly bring more prosperity to the region and cement the city as one of the key players in the North of England. One of the most talked about areas of investment is a part of the city centre itself which has been aptly named The City Centre Growth Zone. Around £35 million has been invested into the project that aims to support both new and existing businesses as they grow and become part of Bradford’s overall economy.

The targeted Business Growth Priority Streets Scheme spans a huge portion of the city centre and takes in Darley Street, Rawson Square, Rawson Place, Kirkgate and Ivegate. Companies situated within the scheme’s boundaries will be encouraged to grow their businesses and create new job opportunities that will help support local people and attract further investment into the city. Importantly, the scheme will also offer assistance to those that qualify with expenses such as property improvements, the purchase of equipment or machinery and offer a business rate rebate, dependent upon job creation.

In total, over £500 million has been invested in the city centre over the last year, with an additional £200 million being ploughed into other parts of the wider district. The last 12 months has also seen the opening of the new Westfield shopping and leisure complex, The Broadway. Eighty-two new stores fill the 570,000 sq ft of retail space and over 2,000 jobs have been created in the process.

Bradford’s transportation links

Bradford has all of the standard transportation links that one would expect from a city of its size and enjoys good connections with all of the other major northern cities in the region. Neighbouring Leeds provides Bradford with the closest international airport (just six miles to the east), and Manchester Airport is only an hour’s drive away, which gives residents easy access to the country’s third largest airport.

Bradford is also well served by the road network with the M606 spur connecting to the M62. This means that entry on to the M1 is straightforward and provides those who wish to travel either south or north an easy way to do so. The M62 itself, which runs to the south of Bradford, links the city to Hull and Leeds in the east and Liverpool and Manchester in the west. Bradford is also served by a number of trunk roads, giving access to local towns and cities such as Queensbury, Wakefield, Halifax, Harrogate, Leeds and Keighley.

 

A Guide to Investing in Property in Bradford Aspen Woolf

Image credit: John Pease via Flickr


The city has two main railway stations, namely The Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square. Bradford Interchange combines rail, bus and coach services and has a passenger footfall just short of 3 million people per annum. The station operates regular services locally and also links the city to London’s King’s Cross station. Bradford Forster Square – a mere 10-minute walk away from the Interchange – also connects with London’s King’s Cross.

As with the majority of British towns and cities, Bradford is served by several different bus companies, including First Group and Arriva.

Local life in Bradford

As we have already seen in our guide, Bradford has plenty going for it in terms of culture, countryside and connectivity. Here we’ll explore the local environment in a little more depth.

Bradford forms part of one of Lonely Planet’s top regions in the world. Yorkshire was named in the travel giant’s Best in Travel Guide 2014, and it’s easy to see why the county received such an accolade once you visit. Bradford was cited as being one of the key reasons why Yorkshire was placed in the top three spots in the guide, and its UNESCO City of Film status further cements the city’s reputation as a must-visit region of the British Isles.

The city has a long and rich history and the local architecture reflects this in certain areas, especially the ever popular Little Germany. This part of Bradford is full of wonderful Victorian buildings and named after the German merchants who came to the city in the late 1850s. Another UNESCO recognised part of Bradford is Saltaire, a World Heritage Site model village that also boasts incredible architecture and a wealth of independent restaurants and shops. Salt Mills also sits within the site, home to one of the greatest collections of work by the artist David Hockney.

 

A Guide to Investing in Property in Bradford Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Tim Green via Flickr


Those who enjoy a little retail therapy are spoilt for choice in Bradford, especially now that the brand-new Westfield Broadway shopping centre has opened its doors to the public. The £260 million mall brings a whole host of retailers to the city and it adds to the already existing Kirkgate Centre, Oastler Shopping Centre and Forster Square Shopping Park. The city also has one of the grandest book stores you will ever see. Bradford’s Waterstones is located inside the old Victorian Gothic Wool Exchange building and is well worth a visit even if you have no intention of buying yourself a paperback or two.

Food and drink offerings are as plentiful as the shopping experiences you can have in the city. Dubbed the Curry Capital of Britain, Bradford naturally has a wealth of Asian eateries, but the range of cuisines on offer doesn’t stop there. Everything is catered for here, and the local craft beer scene is blossoming into something that could well become an attraction in its own right.

 

A Guide to Investing in Property in Bradford Aspen Woolf

Image credit: Pelican via Flickr


Bradford also has an excellent array of nocturnal pleasures for the night owls amongst you. Live music can be found at places such as The Live Room and Disco Joe’s. As with any other British city, pubs and clubs are easily found and there are also plenty of upmarket bars on offer too. Naturally, for a UNESCO City of Film, cinema features heavily here and theatre, too, is well represented.

Bradford is a lively, vibrant city with lots to see and do, making it the perfect place for young professionals looking to set up home in what is surely one of the most picturesque regions in the whole of the UK.

Why invest in Bradford

We believe that Bradford is one of the most upcoming areas in the United Kingdom, and the work that is being done by both the local government and outside investors reflects our sentiments. We have already gone over the regeneration projects in operation throughout the city and believe that all of these initiatives will stand Bradford in good stead as we move towards 2020.

Property prices are attractive in the city, with averages working out to be around a third of what one would expect to pay in London. This presents investors with a unique opportunity to take advantage of some extraordinarily good deals in the area. For example, property in the centre of town (postcode BD1) were recently reported to be providing buy-to-let investors with yields of over 9 per cent each year, the joint second highest in the country along with Glasgow’s G21.

The city’s close proximity to Leeds is also of benefit to anyone looking to invest in property, as Bradford is now being viewed as a viable alternative for those who need to commute into the neighbouring city’s fast expanding financial district. These young professionals will also take heart from the fact that Bradford has some great schools and an abundance of amazing countryside right on their doorstep.

So, if you are looking to move into the property market, we strongly advise you to do nothing until you have explored all that Bradford has to offer. This is a British city that is still offering fantastic value to anyone who wishes to either begin or expand their own property portfolio.

If this guide has whetted your appetite, you might enjoy 14 Reasons We Love Bradford and Is the Westfield Effect the New Waitrose Effect?

If you’re ready to start your property investment journey, contact us today.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford

Bradford Town Hall

Valentines is right around the corner, and we thought what better way to spend it than celebrating with these 14 reasons we love Bradford.

Bradford may not be the city that comes to everyone’s mind first as the greatest place in the UK, but those of us who were born and raised there, or discovered it later in life, know it has a surprising amount to offer.

From its fantastic mix of fabulously famous food to its often referenced green spaces and culture – here’s 14 reasons why Bradford deserves our love this Valentine.

 

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

1. Bradford Invented School Dinners

Thank Bradford for rainbow sponge and lumpy custard – the UK’s first state-funded meals were served up at a Bradford primary school in 1906 in response to children collapsing from hunger.

However, the struggle to get this incredible movement into place was real, and the first meals were actually illegally given out. The initiative to give free school lunches was soon rolled out nationally under the Provision of School Meals Act.

Thankfully 38 years later it was finally made a legal requirement to provide free school meals nationally in 1944 by The Education Act. Had it not been for Bradford’s pioneering efforts in proving that undernourished or hungry children had trouble learning we might still be sitting in class with our tummies rumbling and minds elsewhere’s.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

2. Diverse Culture

Bradford is diverse in relation to its people, place and experiences: a rich mix of nationalities, ethnicities, gender, ages, physical abilities, economic status and faiths.

As a former textile capital of the world Bradford has a long history of immigration through the ages – and has become enriched as one of the north’s most culturally and ethnically diverse cities as a result.

Bradford is also base to a number of Asian culture and arts organisations, and in the summertime the city hosts an annual Mela (which is believed to be one of the largest events of its kind in Europe) – as well as the World Curry Festival!

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

3. Curry Capital of the World

Mmm, all this talk of food is making us hungry, speaking of food… Yup, Bradford is a city synonymous with first-class curry, which is why it’s been crowned Curry Capital of the UK five years in a row! The only city to have ever done it!

With its well earned reputation for some of the finest Asian food in the UK the city has well over 100 ‘curry houses’ and some of the best Asian restaurants in Yorkshire.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

4. Westfield and an Underground Retail Complex

Clearly on the up, Bradford just got its very own Westfield owned shopping centre called The Broadway and boy is it lush!

But if that isn’t enough, there’s something else Bradfordians can get really excited about. It’s recently rediscovered network of subterranean tunnels underneath the City Hall is going to be transformed into a shopping and leisure area right in the centre called Sunbridge Wells. Now that we can’t wait to see!

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

5. Relaxed City Centre Living

This brings us to the actual city centre. Bradford city centre is arguably one of the most relaxing places to escape from the stresses and strains of working in the office. The city boasts some of the most exclusive parks and gardens, among them is The Mughal Water Garden – an interpretation of the infamous Shalamar Gardens at Lahore . Also worth mentioning are Bowling, Heathcote, Horton and Lund Parks.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

6. Britain’s Grandest Waterstone’s

A truly gorgeous gem of a bookshop, housed in Bradford’s Victorian Gothic Wool Exchange building.

Bradford’s former Wool Exchange was once the epicentre of the world’s worsted trade, but now houses one of the somewhat posher branches of Waterstone’s. Michael Palin once quipped that it made the Sistine Chapel look like Grimsby bus station. A bit farfetched perhaps, but it is a gorgeous building none-the-less.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

7. Nominated European City of Culture in 2008

Inspired by a rich and diverse cultural history the City of Bradford in the heart of West Yorkshire’s Bronte Country put forward a bid to be considered for the title of European City of Culture back in 2008.

Although not making it to the final shortlist, Bradford’s thriving arts scene and its diverse multicultural influences have made the city a worthy contender for the culture title. We still love you Bradford!

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

8. Two UNESCO Sites

Although it might not have won European City of Culture back in 2008, it’s still home to not just one, but TWO UNESCO sites.

Bradford is the world’s first UNESCO City of Film! This permanent title bestows international recognition on Bradford as a world centre for film because of the city’s rich film heritage, its inspirational movie locations and its many celebrations of the moving image through the city’s film festivals, filmed related events and unique approach to learning about film and learning with film.

Saltaire is the second UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bradford thanks to its preservation as a Victorian industrial village. Mill owner Sir Titus Salt built the village for his workers and today Saltaire attracts millions of visitors to its magnificent architecture and attractions.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

9. Wool Capital of the World

In 1901 Bradford was a globally-renowned name for textiles, an industry that powered Bradford’s fortunes and drew business in from literally all over the world.

Bradford has a rich and fascinating history from Roman remains to Victorian grandeur. With a long industrial heritage, Bradford is proud to have once been the wool capital of the world. It was so great that “They used to say there were more Rolls Royce’s in Bradford than anywhere else in the country.”

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

10. Little Germany

Happen to know anyone in Bradford called Schmitt? That might be because, once upon a time, Bradford was THE place to be.

By the late 1850s German merchants were flocking to Bradford after hearing that the Yorkshire city was the ultimate destination for anyone who was a textile mover and shaker. After settling in, the Germans spent a great deal of money constructing their ornate Italianate and Gothic buildings.

So what legacy did the great merchants leave behind? Today what’s left of these unique buildings form a collection of 85 buildings constructed between 1855 and 1890, of which 55 are listed because of their architectural and historical importance. The German merchants from way back would be happy to know that the area now called ‘Little Germany’ is still one of Bradford’s busiest commercial areas, housing over 110 businesses and organisations and 3000 workers. Bradford Chamber of Commerce has also relocated here and the area attracts around 100,000 visitors each year!

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

11. Sixth largest city in the country

Boasting a vibrant, young multi-cultural population it may come as a surprise to some that Bradford is actually Britain’s sixth largest city in terms of population. Nowadays with all the investment put into the city it is once again finding itself becoming more and more popular.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

12. Third in Quality of Life

Perhaps another surprise for many, but another reason we love Bradford. Families in Bradford have one of the highest qualities of living in the country!

The annual report by MoneySuperMarket on the Quality of Living Index in 2014 put Bradford high up on their list. The index assessed the UK’s 12 largest cities on a range of key economic indicators. Bradford came in third, beating even major cities like Manchester and London!

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

13. Brontë Parsonage

If you are fans of the Brontë sisters (or indeed classic literature) then a visit to the Brontë Parsonage is a must. The Parsonage was home to the Brontë family from 1820 and is now a beautifully preserved museum.

After learning a bit about their life at the Parsonage you can then take a walk on to the unspoilt moorlands and experience the inspirational spots where the sisters wrote. Discover the Brontë Bridge, the ruins of Top Withens (said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights), and the Brontë Falls.

14 Reasons We Love Bradford Aspen Woolf

14. Brontë Sisters

And lastly… how can you even mention the moorlands or The Parsonage without mentioning the famous Brontë sisters.

Anne’s ‘Agnes Grey’ and Charlotte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ were published in 1847. Charlotte’s ‘Jane Eyre’ was the first to know success, while Emily’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, Anne’s ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ and other works were later to be accepted as masterpieces of literature.

Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë’s only novel – is widely considered one of the greatest works of fiction ever written, and arguably so! It was a novel so powerful it inspired numerous movies as well as the iconic Kate Bush to write her 1978 instant number one hit sharing the same name.

 

So there you have it, the 14 reasons we love Bradford. Where else can you enjoy two UNESCO sites, two moorlands, and amazing food? All combined with the former home of literary greats, alongside a city full with a rich and varied mix of cultures and languages. This Valentine we want to spend with you, Bradford!

“You know that I could as soon forget you as my existence!”
– Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights.

 

If you liked this article, then we think you would enjoy our 11 Facts about Leeds as well.