Colourful city centre vicar, the Reverend Chris Howson, is leaving Bradford after 23 years.

In August, he will become the Chaplain to the University of Sunderland and Associate Minister for Sunderland Minster.

Mr Howson, responsible for creating the Street Angels project, said that after seven years of work at SoulSpace and JustSpace, he felt it was time to move on and put some of the skills he has learned in Bradford to good use in Sunderland.

Mr Howson, who has a wife Catriona and daughters Angela and Clara, has been vocal in his support for the campaign to save the Odeon, the Occupy movement and in opposition to the growing number of betting shops in Bradford, a place he said he will always call home after arriving in 1989 to study social work at Bradford University.

Mr Howson said that the period working in Manningham after the 1995 riots had taught him real change was possible in some of the worst situations.

“Bradford is a place brimming with great people who have vision and courage,” he said. “Sunderland has some lessons to learn from the Bradford experience where there has been a lot of resistance to cuts. The church has got a role in trying to support those people in the community.

“I think the election of the Respect party in Bradford was a good thing for reinvigorating politics in the city. The political classes in Bradford need a shake-up. I think we are going through a resurgence which is something we should be proud of.

“People are feeling better about the city than I ever remember and it would be lovely if Westfield shared the enthusiasm and got on with the job.

“One of the things I am most happy with is building up the work of Desmond Tutu House. It is a place where the church can demonstrate its commitment to the local community and to peace and social justice issues.

“I love this city and it will always be my home town and will always be something special to hold on to when life is hard.

“The people and the hills and valleys are full of spirit and hope and love.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend Nick Baines, said he was sorry to be losing such a committed and creative clergyman.

“Chris has made a deep impression on many people here and he will be missed,” he said. “His commitment to justice and the common good – especially in support of the most vulnerable people – will continue.”

Mr Howson’s role is expected to be filled with another chaplain to the University and city centre.