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Council gets in expert help to give us a dose of retail therapy
Retail experts are set to embark on a far-reaching study to “get into the minds” of Bradford’s shoppers to help map out the district’s shopping needs for the next 15 years.
The investigation, to be carried out by an international consultancy over the next two months, will look into retail spending, shopping patterns and the performance of town centres across the Bradford district.
Consultants from Leeds-based WYG, who have worked for Bradford Council since 2007, are aiming to assess future retail floor space requirements and shape Bradford Council’s future retail planning and decision-making up to 2026.
They will conduct telephone interviews with 1,800 households about where people have shopped since 2008, their internet shopping habits and what they like and dislike about the district's shopping areas and retail offering.
A snapshot survey conducted by the T&A in Bradford city centre yesterday revealed shoppers wanted to see greater variation in the retail offer, including more clothes shops and department stores. Some spoke negatively about the high number of pound shops.
WYG will also examine how the recession has affected local shopping patterns and the vitality and viability of local centres and evaluate whether the current retail landscape is delivering sustainable shopping provision.
The study will also include face-to-face street interviews in Bradford, Shipley , Bingley , Keighley and Ilkley as well as an online survey of businesses in the five centres. Businesses, including market traders, will be formally invited to respond to a series of questions seeking to discover what hinders their trading performance, future requirements and desires and what improvements are needed for the area to thrive.
Findings from the investigation will be fed into the Council’s core strategy development plan document, which is due to go out for public consultation later this year. The document is intended to guide future development into key growth areas and ensure that regeneration and planning priorities can be delivered in the long term.
Paul Shuker, associate at WYG in Leeds, said: “The biggest challenge for Bradford Council is how they are going to respond positively to declining town centre environments and closing shops as well as responding to the growth of online shopping and diversify into specialist retailing sectors.
“Creating vibrant and viable town centres is extremely complex and there is no ‘one fix all solution’ to encourage vibrancy and growth.” He said the study would aim to get into the minds of local shoppers to understand their retail needs and requirements.
Bradford Council leader David Green said the study would cost up to £40,000 and was needed to enable the authority to draw up its Local Development Plan which will outline the recommended designated use of land and geographic areas across the Bradford district into sites designated for retail, business, residential or leisure use. The LDP will go before a planning inspector next year.