Huddersfield has three key opportunities for economic development and growth as the UK emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

That’s the view of Sir John Harman, chairman of Huddersfield Unlimited, a group set up to promote the town’s local economy and attract inward investment.

Sir John, who was leader of Kirklees Council for 13 years and was one of the driving forces behind the construction of the John Smith’s Stadium, said Huddersfield had some “great opportunities” to drive recovery in 2021.

“2020 has been a tough year for business and tougher still when it comes to finding new investment,” said Sir John.

“Covid has definitely slowed us down but during 2020 the board of Huddersfield Unlimited and members of our expert working groups have continued to work behind the scenes on the building blocks of recovery.”

Huddersfield Unlimited has highlighted three key opportunities which can put Huddersfield on the front foot.

“First, the Government is making decisions on transport infrastructure, but especially rail, which will make a huge difference to Huddersfield as a place to invest,” said Sir John.

“We continue to press for full electrification of the TransPennine line and we are working constructively to that end. And rail improvements need to be linked to investment in the station area to help kickstart its revival.

Huddersfield Blueprint is an opportunity – but public money won’t be enough, says Sir John Harman

“Second, Kirklees Council has an ambitious Blueprint for reshaping the town centre and is prepared to invest public money – but that won’t be nearly enough.

“We have brought together a team of commercially experienced property people who are giving their time to help promote town centre opportunities to investors and this expertise is ready to work with the council.”

And 2020 saw a golden opportunity emerge, said Sir John, with the plans for a Health Innovation campus for the University of Huddersfield on the former Huddersfield Sports Centre site at Southgate.

“I congratulate the university and the council for coming together to make this site available,” he said.

“It entirely supports our own work on Huddersfield’s opportunities in the growth of the digital economy over the last year.

“We can have a competitive advantage in medical technology, with several key firms already in the area and a good research base.

“We’d already identified this as a growth opportunity but the announcement of the new campus doubles up on that, and it will create a cluster of new businesses around it. This for us is a magnet for new investment.”