ONE OF Bradford’s most rapidly developing communities is ready to awaken from its Covid-19 slumber and continue its meteoric rise.

Greengates and Apperley Bridge has changed drastically in the way it looks and feels over the past decade, with the opening of a new railway station, the arrival of several new housing developments and the much-awaited transformation of the infamous Greengates Crossroads.

This core centre point has also experienced a boom in the nightlife scene over recent years.

It is a unique area in that both Greengates and Apperley Bridge are separate in their names, but have very much become one community that blends together in different ways.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

The physical and cultural boundaries of the two areas have always been cause for question, with blurred lines separating the two.

The line between Greengates and Apperley Bridge is set along New Line according to the Idle and Thackley Ward map on Bradford Council’s website, but many will tell you the former is situated around the crossroads and the latter is based in the valley.

Both areas sit right on the border between Leeds and Bradford.

You can in fact technically be stood in both cities at the same time if you go by two prominent signs in the area.

Greengates and Apperley Bridge have never been closer than they are now following the construction of several new housing developments on green areas and fields connecting the two areas, along Harrogate Road.

Michael Frazer, Secretary of the Friends of Greengates Cenotaph, is originally from Leeds but moved to a new estate in Apperley Bridge with his wife in 1994.

He harks back to a time when Harrogate Road had lots of fields either side of it and there was a plethora of green space near the canal.

But the community stalwart feels the area is still a “beautiful place” even with nearly 500 new houses.

He said: “I’ve been in the area for quite some time, it was a Barratt’s (Barratt Homes) estate built in the early 90s.

“I didn’t know anything about the area, we were going to buy in Rawdon, but the house prices were cheaper here, so we moved here.

“I got involved in the community when my wife died from Leukaemia in 2016.

“The main thing that struck me about this area was Greengates and Apperley Bridge, although they are next to each other, were like two different villages.

“Greengates is a much more traditional, Victorian village, and Apperley Bridge is more modern really.”

Angela Riches set-up The Apperley Bridge Neighbourhood Watch three years ago and has lived in the area for more than two decades.

She came into the community after meeting her husband, Dave, who resided in Apperley Lodge with his parents – next door to the entrance to Bronte House School right on the edge of the area’s boundaries.

The couple stayed with Dave’s parents for a few years while saving up to get married and to buy their own home, then purchased a house in the Apperley Bridge area 23 years ago.

She said: “The area has changed dramatically since the railway station opened, with every bit of green space being bought for housing developments.

“We have lost many lovely views and the traffic is horrendous.

“I still think there is a divide between Greengates and Apperley Bridge but the lines/boundaries have definitely been blurred.”

Both areas have landmarks that have stood the test of time.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Greengates Cenotaph sits proudly at the crossroads in remembrance of those who died in World War One, while Apperley Bridge Marina welcomes boats of all kinds as they travel along the historic Leeds-Liverpool Canal.

But the area has been characterised by progress and change for a long time now, from the knocking down of unused buildings on one of the crossroads’ corners, to the arrival of new houses and apartments.

The housing developments were the cause of much controversy when they were first proposed, and building got underway.

But Mr Frazer believes the animosity surrounding the new builds has subsided and he has made a concerted effort to bring the minds of newcomers and long-term residents together.

He said: “A lot of people in Greengates fought against it.

“They didn’t want to lose the green field sites.

“There was ill-feeling about the new developments.

“As things started to go on and families started to move in, I wanted to reconcile Greengates and Apperley Bridge – prioritise the area and move things on and welcome the new residents into the Greengates and Apperley Bridge community.

“I set-up a community group, the Greengates and Apperley Bridge Community Group.

“I deliberately chose that name, because I wanted to promote that.”

His campaign involved letting the new residents and families know about everything that was going on in the community, such as Scouts and Brownies at the Church Hall.

He said: “I wanted them to get involved in all that was happening in the area.

“I set-up a new Facebook group. It was only set-up in November and already there’s 850 members.

“It’s Greengates and Apperley Bridge – there were Greengates groups on Facebook but there wasn’t a Facebook group that combined the name of both communities.

“It’s lessened that resentment that there used to be.”

Due to its suburban location, and the fact the area is well connected to two major cities, as well as the countryside, Greengates and Apperley Bridge has always been a haven for commuters.

Apperley Bridge Railway Station opened in December 2015 and replaced the original station there, which closed back in 1965.

This enhanced the area’s profile and made it an even more desirable place to move to, feeding the need for more housing (which as mentioned, eventually happened).

It is showcased in figures from Plumpilot – which collates data into maps from various sources such as Census 2011, Land Registry and Government population estimates.

The map highlights that the population of the Idle & Thackley Ward, which incorporates Greengates and Apperley Bridge, increased by 15.8 per cent between 2002 and 2019.

The Eccleshill Ward, which features part of Greengates, saw a rise of 16.8 per cent in its population.

Both are above Bradford’s overall population growth since 2002 (13.3 per cent) and England and Wales as a whole (13 per cent).

Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, Leader of The Liberal Democrat and Independent Group whose ward is Idle and Thackley, has represented the area for a long time and admits to seeing a number of changes over those years.

She said: “Apperley Bridge, Simpson Green, Greengates and Lower Thorpe Edge is one part of the community I am proud to represent.

“It's beautiful, historical, and has successfully weathered many changes.

“It is what makes it a great place to live, work, play and grow up in.

“It is home to families who can trace their history back over generations and an increasing number of 'new to Bradford' people who are choosing to make their homes here.

“It is good to have been able to support existing community groups to welcome new families and support more recent residents to create new groups and activities.”

The influx of new homeowners has brought a fresh wave of spending power to the area though – and where there is money and people looking for things to do, businesses will inevitably flock.

It is no surprise then to see Greengates and Apperley Bridge’s nightlife rise from the ashes of several high-profile closures in the modern era.

Long gone are some of the lynchpins of yesteryears – such as The Roebuck and Seven Stars - replaced by restaurants, bars and trendy micropubs, to complement some of the old custodians which have managed to hang around.

This includes stalwarts like, The Albion, Stansfield Arms, George & Dragon, Dog & Gun, Kipling’s and Kebabeesh.

Paul Taylor, 43, who describes himself as a “Greengates lad born and bred”, has played a part in that renaissance.

The businessman lived opposite Sainsbury’s on Harrogate Road all his life before moving to Idle and took his passion for the area a step further by contributing to the rise in social and cultural life.

The 43-year-old and his partner, Barry Smith, set-up New Line – a micropub – in June 2018.

Mr Taylor agrees the area has experienced a meteoric rise in its cultural and social life in recent years.

He said: “Even when we were drinking at 18, The Roebuck and the Seven Stars were the place to go.

“When they disappeared, it took a hit in going out and people started to go to Idle and Eccleshill.

“We wanted to put back into the community – you can walk round with your mates or missus and do a pub crawl.

“Aldo’s has been great, we try work together – we recommend going in the Albion, Cracker Barrell, if you’re wanting a curry, we mention Beer and Bhajis, Kebabheesh, Kiplings, all those places.

“It’s keeping it in Greengates. It’s a massive boost. A lot are coming down in taxis and from all over the place.”

Italian restaurant, Aldo’s, joined the Greengates and Apperley Bridge fold in 2017, moving into the building where Seven Stars used to be, followed by Bhajis N Beers.

Then came along The Cracker Barrel and New Line, before Aldo’s opened a bar of its own – Bar Lusso – right next to its restaurant.

Mr Frazer said: “There has been a significant increase in cultural life in Greengates and it’s due to those establishments that have been set-up.

“They’ve set-up on the back of closures of some places – the Roebuck, Seven Stars – and initially cultural life dropped.

“With the microbreweries and Aldo’s and other places, there has been an increase in social life and the new residents and new estates have been part of that.

“They’ve brought their spending power to Greengates and it’s benefited all of the community.

“There’s also been a growth in entrepreneurship.”

Councillor Brendan Stubbs (Eccleshill, Lib Dem and Ind) said the vibrancy these small businesses and community groups bring to Greengates and Apperley Bridge is what makes him most proud to represent the area.

He added: “In recent years we have seen a mini boom in leisure and hospitality, with restaurants, micro pubs, coffee shops and gyms.

“Alongside the large and small retailers, Greengates is still a dynamic economic area.

“The downside of these changes have been the increasing congestion, loss of some surround green spaces to development and the noise and air pollution they have brought.”

Greengates and Apperley Bridge has always had issues with congestion, due to it connecting several other areas together.

The rapid development of the area in the past decade has only seen that get worse.

Mrs Riches said: “The railway station is a double-edged sword.

“It has given fantastic access to Leeds but has also possibly been the main reason for the explosion in housing developments and the number of people moving into the area which has taken away the many open fields and green space.”

There has also been pressure on services, according to Mr Taylor.

But he feels the Greengates Crossroad Improvement Scheme – which is well underway now – should help resolve that.

He said: “The infrastructure is getting a little bit hit and the doctors.

“My mum works in a doctors and she’s seen big rise in local people coming.

“The new road junction will help, and we’re keeping the cenotaph, we should be all good.”

The development of Greengates Crossroad is arguably the biggest change the area will have experienced in recent history.

It is costing £12.3 million and first began in July 2020 after the improvement scheme had been in the pipeline for a number of years.

There is hope that once it is completed, the long-standing traffic problem will be a thing of the past.

This is an area that is always looking to improve, but the pandemic and lockdowns have hit Greengates and Apperley Bridge like anywhere else.

But hope is held in the community spirit and determined nature that have become ingrained in the psyche round these parts.

Councillor Stubbs said: “The people are very resourceful; they are not sat around waiting for someone else to make it a nice place to live.

“I have been pleased in my role as a councillor to award a number of community groups in the area with £1000's of pounds in grants and funding to support a range of activities over the past few years.”

Some businesses have already adapted, such as Aldo’s, which has offered its “Aldo’s at Home” takeaway and delivery service, while others are eagerly awaiting the chance to reopen again after the false dawn of July 4 last year.

Mr Taylor said: “It started as a hobby for us, any profits go into the jukebox.

“Bradford Council has been brilliant with the grants.

“We’ll come back fighting once it’s all over and we’ll support the rest of Greengates as well.

“We’re all dying to come for a pint.”

This could also be a good chance to reset and make sure the area’s priorities are in the right places, according to Councillor Stubbs and Sunderland.

Councillor Stubbs said: “I am confident that the area will bounce back I am sure most of us are keen to meet up with friends and enjoy a night or too out.

“The completion of the new junction should help to relieve congestion and make it easier for pedestrians to safely get around.

“I am also keen to see that we make more of the woodland and recreational spaces in the area.”

He aims to do this by improving access and facilities for the public.

Councillor Sunderland added: “If Covid-19 has taught us one thing, then it is the value of our natural environment.

“Apperley Bridge has been identified as an 'area for growth'.

“Recovery from Covid-19 must include the council resetting its approach to nature and our natural environment for the benefit of people and their environment.

“Apperley Bridge and its surrounds can be place for exemplar environmental practise.

“This is what I believe can be written as the next chapter in the life of a place called Apperley Bridge.”

Mr Frazer has already started work on reusing what the area has to rejuvenate it as the Covid-19 nightmare comes to an end.

He said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, I think we’ll be able to rejuvenate this social, this new cultural life.

“A lot of artists live in this area.

“In Spring we’re trying to imitate what they’ve done in Kirkstall, Headingley and Meanwood, where the street furniture has been painted fantastically, to reflect the community.

“We’re trying to get support from Bradford Council and various funds to try to do something similar.

“That’s just one example of what we’re planning to do as we come out of the pandemic.

“Hopefully it will make the area a bit more vibrant.”

One view that everyone shares, is that Greengates and Apperley Bridge will emerge from the crisis on its toes and ready to fight back.

After all, the area has had to do it before and I wouldn't bet against it returning to being a bubbling hive of activity before long.