Sir John Harman is chairman of Huddersfield Unlimited and was leader of Kirklees Council from 1986-1999. He was also chairman of the Environment Agency for eight years and was knighted for services to local government and the environment in 1997.
I believe 2022 can be a turning point for Huddersfield.
As the economy emerges from Covid into a changed world including changes in the way we work, the way we shop, and our lifestyle choices, towns everywhere will face significant challenges and those that can respond quickly and flexibly to changing demand will be the winners.
As we enter 2022 Huddersfield has some distinct advantages and we need to make the most of them. As I see it there are five clear scoring chances and they are these:
- Location: if the Government is serious about levelling up in the North, Huddersfield sits astride the East-West transport links and should become the fulcrum between the Manchester and Leeds city regions;
- Rail and road infrastructure: whatever you think of the decision to scrap HS2, the Trans-Pennine line is now the only strategic East-West rail link, and we must see major investment beyond the programmed improvements east out of Huddersfield;
- The University of Huddersfield’s research and teaching is an ideal base for new growth; the new Health Innovation Campus to be developed at Southgate is a good example, and now needs the right effort to bring private investment and new jobs alongside it;
- Retail and office costs in Huddersfield are a fraction of those in Leeds and Manchester – for now – and the town has a stock of fine buildings that are ripe for regeneration;
- Kirklees Council’s investment plans for what they are calling the ‘Cultural Heart’ have landed at just the right time to kick-start regeneration, provided they are carried through with determination.
These are five clear scoring chances but the team still has to put the ball into the back of the net. And if we want to make the most of these opportunities, it will need a team effort.
The required investment is vastly greater than what is available just through the public purse. We want to see business and public bodies pulling together, which is what Huddersfield Unlimited is all about.
We’re not here to make a big public splash but to work, often behind the scenes, to get these opportunities over the line. All of them will take time and patience.
Huddersfield Unlimited’s agenda for 2022 includes:
- The railway improvements around the station should be the launchpad for the opening up of the old warehouse site both for the redevelopment of the listed building and for parking;
- To make the argument for Government investment in rail electrification and increased capacity between Huddersfield and Manchester;
- To help build a programme of skills training, support and investment that will bring new businesses and jobs into the Southgate Health Campus;
- To draw together those organisations who want to own and promote the Huddersfield “brand” and reach out to investors;
- To help the council to attract investment in some of the many underused or empty buildings in and around the town centre so that we can begin to see real change.
As Huddersfield Unlimited ventures into the year ahead, we are committed to helping to make real change, demonstrated by recent appointments including; Charles Maltby (above) as program director to drive our agenda forward, along with additions to our board of directors including Sue Cooke, CEO of the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) (bottom left above) and Liz Towns-Andrews OBE, professor of innovation at the University of Huddersfield.