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.

What are the benefits of buying new in the Northwest?

Liverpool waterfront

Whether you choose to invest in new builds or buy something more established, Leeds and the wider Northwest region offers a wide range of choice. From mansions just selling for just under £1 million to 1 beds going for around £35,000, it’s easy to see why this region is becoming more popular to property investors and first-time buyers alike.

The choice between a new build or established property is often down to personal circumstances and subjective tastes, but there are some reasons why new can be to your advantage.

Strict regulations

Over recent years, building regulations have become increasingly strict. New builds are built to a high spec with a ten-year guarantee. This gives an obvious advantage over an older property in terms of potential repairs and upkeep. With brand new fittings and features, a new-build property means there’s less need to make allowances for the potential cost of repairs and ongoing maintenance. Whether you’re looking to invest as a landlord or as a first-time buyer, this can make a huge difference in terms of what you can afford.

This is a good choice for investors looking to build up their buy-to-let property. By investing in new-builds in Leeds they are taking advantage of a city that is very much on the rise. The government’s Northern Powerhouse scheme has meant it’s front and centre in terms of investment and regeneration.

An increasingly popular choice for investors looking to boost their portfolio, cities such as Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester are offering more diverse options that in London and the South East. They’re also offering strong ROI and rising, rather than falling, property prices.

Energy efficiency

Even if an older property has been lovingly restored, it’s almost impossible for them to compete with the energy efficiency built in to new properties. Modern building methods have been developed to prevent damp, while double glazed window units, improved insulation and cavity walls provide energy savings on a long-term basis.

Heating systems are always improving and will significantly reduce monthly outgoings when compared with an older property. If you are investing in a buy-to-let property, then it’s your responsibility to ensure it’s safe and fit for purpose. From April this year, it has become illegal to rent out a house with an energy efficiency (EPC) rating of F and G – the lowest possible ratings.

Modern living

New builds are designed with modern living in mind. They tend to have smaller rooms, less floorspace by square foot and be of simpler design than more established properties. While this can come down to personal taste, for investors, new builds offer the best of both worlds.

Property developers look to minimise wasted space in new builds, ensuring they’re as efficient as possible. This has a knock-on effect on monthly outgoings as energy is saved and costs are as low as possible. And, as they’re designed for modern family life, there are always people ready to rent. Investing in judiciously placed new builds in the Northwest of England this year guarantees a steady ROI and hassle-free management.

Flexible options

While there can be a premium attached to buying a new-build property, so that they can cost more than a comparable older property, there are often more flexible buying options. First-time buyers may be able to take advantage of the government’s Help to Buy scheme, for example. As this only needs a 5% deposit, it opens the door to new home owners. Older properties often need a higher deposit and you’ll likely need more funds for alterations.

Buying off-plan also allows people to plan their move with more confidence. When buying an older property there is a huge amount of uncertainty concerning the seller and other people in a buying chain. This uncertainty can last right up to exchange and is the cause of a lot of stress. Buying a property off-plan removes all this uncertainty.

Buying property in Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Bradford or other cities in Northwest is fast becoming the option of choice for savvy investors. Both new-build and established properties offer advantages that just don’t exist in London and the South East currently.