CITY centre footfall is beginning to recover in Bradford - but getting workers back to their city centre offices remains the “key remaining element” to getting figures back to pre-pandemic levels.

A recent report into city centre regeneration by Bradford Council said the Covid lockdown had a “profound, adverse impact on the City Centre, and led to a number of businesses shutting.

However, in 2022 figures have rebounded - cameras measuring footfall have seen a 144.9 per cent increase in people in the city centre compared to this point in 2021.

However, footfall levels are still just 80 per cent of what they were before the pandemic.

The report also reveals how the pandemic impacted vacancy rates in the city.

In December 2019 the vacancy rate for the city centre was 20.86 per cent.

By December 2021 this had risen to 22.18 per cent.

High profile losses in this period include Debenhams - one of the largest shops in the city, and the B&M branch in Rawson Quarter.

The report, which went before the Council’s Regeneration and Environment Scrutiny Committee last week, said: “At the height of the lockdown footfall in Bradford City dropped to 20 per cent of normal levels with a similar picture in our town centres.

“The most recent data shows footfall at around 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

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“Getting office workers back into our city and centres is the key remaining element to recovering to pre-pandemic footfall levels.”

Although most lockdown restrictions have now been lifted, many office staff are still working on a hybrid working model - working in the office some days and at home other days.

Nationally this change has hit city centre businesses whose bread and butter are providing coffees or lunches to city workers.

At the meeting, Jason Longhurst - director of place, said: “There was obviously a decline in city centre footfall, but things are starting to recover. We expect things to get back to levels that we saw prior to the pandemic soon.

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“Vacancy rates are up, particularly in the Broadway, but we spoke to the managers and they are confident of attracting new occupiers to those units.”

Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, Executive for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “We’ve beginning to understand the trends in footfall more and more. They will change, things won’t go back to exactly the way it was.

“It may be in some areas footfall never recovers - it could be too many customers are doing online orders for some businesses to survive. But what may happen is that the city centre becomes more focused on entertainment and leisure - more people wanting to go to the city centre for a meal and to go to the cinema.

“Footfall might come back, but in different places. That is why were planning on taking out the Oastler Centre, if you have a smaller city centre footprint then that removes a lot of empty units.”

Bradford Council plans to demolish the Oastler Market building once the under construction Darley Street Market is completed. A "city village" made up of hundreds of homes would be built in its place.

Jason Longhurst said: “When it comes to the vacancy rate, we’re doing quite well compared to other cities. Many cities are looking at 30/40 per cent of their major retail space being empty.”

This week it was announced that another city centre shop, Plant One On Me, would be shutting due to rising costs.

However, there are a number of empty units in the city centre that are soon to open as new businesses. Restaurants Chili Flames and Patron are due to open in long empty units at the Broadway Shopping Centre.

Cafe J’Adore recently opened in a long empty building on Chester Street, and a vacant unit in the Wool Exchange is soon to open as a bath bomb shop.

A vacant unit on Kirkgate is also soon to re-open as an RSPCA store.