BRADFORD needs to plan for an economic recovery that will leave the District in better shape than it was before the Covid pandemic Councillors have heard.

Yesterday the Chair of the District’s Economic Recovery Board said: “We don’t want to go back to normal, because normal wasn’t good enough.”

Professor Zahir Irani, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Bradford, was speaking during a meeting of Bradford Council’s Executive, where members were asked to approved The Bradford District Economic Recovery Plan.

It contains numerous suggestions on how Bradford can bounce back from the national crisis, from helping re-train workers for industries likely to grow in the coming years, such as green technology, to boosting the local health sector and providing support for entrepreneurs and start up businesses.

Other proposals include making the District more prosperous include creating a more sustainable food supply system, creating a city centre park - possibly at the former Royal Mail site at Forster Square, and turning Little Germany into a “heritage action zone” - helping make better use of the historic area of the city.

Bradford's Covid Economic Recovery Plan includes city centre park

The pandemic has already led to a big rise in unemployment in the District, with the future job prospects of Bradford’s young people looking particularly bleak.

Prof Irani told members how the board had been working on the plan for several months, and involved numerous businesses and local organisations.

He said: “In Bradford we have a very low skills base, we have to look at how we enable people to enter the labour market.”

The District also needs to improve its image, with Prof Irani saying: “We have to project the image that Bradford is a great place to live, work and visit, and a great place to set up a business.”

Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “We all know that lockdown will be hugely damaging to the life chances of people in our district unless we get on top of this.”

“As a country we need to think ahead about what comes next. If an economic recovery does not come then that will also damage lives.

“We cannot go back, we have to go forward. The future is Green, and in Bradford we need to make sure we are on top of that.”

Members heard that much of the recovery plan was reliant on Government support. West Yorkshire Combined Authority, made up of five West Yorkshire Councils, has lobbied government for £1.4 billion to help the region’s recovery.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said: “We need this coming through. We can’t deliver on this recovery plan unless the Government properly funds areas of the North like ours.”

Councillor Rebecca Poulsen, leader of the Conservative Party on Bradford Council, said: “This is an excellent piece of work. As has been mentioned, we have to move forward, we don’t want to go back to how it was before.

“I’ve had lots of businesses who have come to me and say they want to get involved in this.”