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Bradford boss draws up blueprint for future
A community benefit society could be set up in Bradford to allow residents to “take back” their city centre and contribute to its revival.
Jonathan Crewdson, 34, a director of community development organisation Neighbourhood Ventures, has drawn up a blueprint for a city centre social enterprise with the mission to bring new money into Bradford and kickstart regeneration.
Thought to be the first social enterprise in the country established to benefit a city centre, Reinvestment Bradford Ltd is being set up as a form of co-operative society that will allow residents, businesses, voluntary groups, public bodies and investors to become members and contribute towards shaping the city centre’s future development.
Mr Crewdson said the society would be run by a board that would be drawn from its membership, but would also seek to include people with particular expertise.
The body would exist to promote the attractions of the area and encourage inward investment.
Some early proposals being put on the table include:
- A ‘shop local’ campaign encouraging Bradfordians to shop again in the city centre, possibly including a local loyalty card with attached incentives to use it and gift vouchers that can only be spent in Bradford city centre.
- Renewable energy using PV solar panels in the centre to generate electricity and sell this to the National Grid as a new source of income, along with the feed-in tariff payments from the Government. The money from this would then be reinvested on other projects to improve the centre.
- A regular programme of events, with at least one high-profile event per month in the city centre to encourage visitors, with the spin-off of increased custom for local shops.
- Tackling derelict property by looking at the possibility of taking on neglected sites and putting them to better use to improve the physical appearance of the city centre.
Reinvestment Bradford Ltd would offer people the chance to invest in the centre by issuing shares for sale to the public, something which co-ops are permitted to do, unlike other companies not listed on the stock market.
However, the aims of the social enterprise are largely philanthropic, so investment will probably only produce a modest return in the future.
He said: “Cobbydale Regeneration has been really popular in Silsden, so this new scheme in Bradford is in a sense copying what we have done in Silsden and transferring it to a bigger area.”
Despite the obvious difference in scale, Mr Crewdson said there was a “complete parallel” between Bradford and Silsden in the sense that both had experienced a decline in businesses in recent years and both had seen shoppers drift away to neighbouring towns.
He said: “One of the things we are going to introduce in Silsden in the next couple of weeks is a ‘shop local’ campaign to try to encourage people to spend their money in the town rather than going to Skipton, Ilkley and Keighley.
“We’ll look to do a similar thing in Bradford, because a lot of people have started to shop in Leeds, Halifax and elsewhere.
“The starting point will be to look at the scheme that’s already worked well in Pudsey, and we have been to speak to town centre management in Pudsey to look at ways of following their success.”
Shoppers in Pudsey use a reward card scheme in which they need to collect six stamps from six different retailers over the month to be entered into a draw to win £50-worth of vouchers.
Mr Crewdson said: “There’s no reason why that shouldn’t work in Bradford. In many ways, Bradford has more to offer shoppers in terms of choice.”
He said renewable energy would also form a vital plank of his plan for Bradford.
“We have talked to residents in Little Germany about the possibility of putting as many solar panels on south-facing roofs as possible because, in effect, the Government pays you for generating electricity,” he said.
Mr Crewdson spent many years working in Bradford and Leeds for the national charity Development Trusts Association, setting up social enterprises.
He was also instrumental in establishing the Bradford City Centre Residents’ Association when he lived in the city centre several years ago.
He said: “Living in a flat in Sunbridge Road made me realise how people were being encouraged to live in city centre apartments in terms of regeneration and weren’t really being catered for in terms of amenities.
“So we got a group together and set up the residents’ association to act as a pressure group to give residents a voice. What we are doing now is setting up an organisation that’s not just a lobbying group and is not just for residents. It’s a much wider project.”
Councillor David Green, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration and economy, said: “I have not seen the document referred to, nor as far as I am aware, has anyone in the Council.
“I am determined to drive forward the regeneration of the city centre and welcome any constructive and deliverable contributions to these efforts, and look forward to receiving the detailed proposals referred to by Neighbourhood Ventures.”