More needs to be done to stimulate the economies of smaller town centres in West Yorkshire, experts and politicians have warned, writes Richard Beecham.
The West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) place panel heard how the region’s smaller towns – like Pudsey – were facing economic difficulties, with some arguing more needs to be done to attract people to living in the centres of small towns.
It was also suggested that business improvement districts – whereby businesses pay a levy to go towards town centre improvements – need to be encouraged in areas which don’t already have them.
Andrew Latchmore, a planning consultant from Shulmans, told the meeting:
“There are a lot of towns in West Yorkshire with very challenging high street environments, and if there is money available we should be applying for it in order to attract more people to our high streets.”
Matthew Walker, from Leeds Federated Housing, added:
“In the high street everyone is working on their own areas. But maybe there is a way of working in a more combined way.”
However, Calderdale councillor Dan Sutherland suggested town centres would benefit from more young professionals living centrally, rather than focussing to heavily on retail. He said:
“Town centre living has traditionally been seen as a last resort, and we need to turn that on its head and make it more attractive.
“There’s something in there about perception, and for us it’s about keeping young professionals and not wanting them to move to cities.”
Selby District Councillor John Mackman argued that place-making should not take away focus from the need to build more houses.
He said: “We need to build houses – is that more important than place-making?
“Not everything can be iconic, not every football team can have a Wembley and not every house can have a park on its doorstep.”
Business Improvement Districts, known as BIDs, have been set up in Leeds and Bradford city centres, as well as other small towns in the region. Mr Shulman argued they have had a positive effect on town centres, and could be a solution to challenging retail environments. He said:
“I wonder if towns that don’t have BIDs might consider encouraging their chambers of commerce to push for one.
“They can be positive forces – they can make spaces come alive. I wonder if thought should be given that there should be encouragement for people to look at their towns and have business improvement districts.”
Coun Sutherland responded: “There is often a conflict between business and residential, and we need to look at how we have a more consistent message to revitalising high streets.”
We encourage anyone living or working in West Leeds to use this website to tell their news. You can either use our Create an Article page, or e-mail us at email@example.com.