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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Column: Bradford’s economy is worth almost double of Wakefield’s so why are house prices lower in Bradford?

Bradford and Wakefield are two cities in West Yorkshire, so why are they so different?

Two West Yorkshire cities with only twenty miles between them, Bradford and Wakefield are worlds apart in terms of community and business.

In 2019, the population of Wakefield stood at around 343, 932 and 536,986 people in Bradford in the same year.

Bradford has a university, a thriving small business industry, and lush green spaces across the district. Bradford is also home to 16,320 businesses, including HQ’s for Morrisons, Hallmark Cards, Mumtaz and Aagrah, employing 250,000 people with a combined turnover of £30bn.

I’ve lived in Wakefield for two years and have worked in Bradford since June.

Arguably, Wakefield has the Hepworth art gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park but the culture and ‘goings-on’ in Bradford compared to Wakefield is unparalleled. Card Factory and SingleMuslims.com are headquartered in Wakefield, but the economy is unmatched.

According to Wakefield JSNA, the economy in Wakefield is worth around £6.37bn a year, ranking 30 on the list of large economies.

In contrast to this, Bradford’s economy is worth almost double that at £11.6bn a year, and is the tenth largest economy in England, and the third-largest in Yorkshire, behind Leeds and Sheffield.

Working in the city since June, I have emersed myself in the local community in Bradford and have experienced more culture in the past six months than the last two living in Wakefield.

Bradford is a bustling university town with young creatives and academics contributing to the city. The university has even been awarded Business School of the Year in the ‘Oscars of higher education’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2021.

Like Newport in South Wales and Peterborough down south, Wakefield is one of few cities in the UK that doesn’t have a university. The closest are the University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University, but as the names suggest, they are in Leeds and so, do not count.

One of the main differences between Bradford and Wakefield is diversity. As ‘Britain’s youngest city’, Bradford is a beacon for different ethnicities, cultures, and communities.

The University of Bradford has existed in the city for over fifty years.

Wakefield’s white British population stands at 95%, well over the national average of 85% whereas the demographic in Bradford is wonderfully diverse with a quarter of the city’s population coming from a South Asian background.

The lack of diversity in Wakefield is noticeable. With 50% of all start-ups in Bradford coming from people from the South Asian community, Wakefield could do with a larger mix of people, to increase not only business and the economy but the richness of society and culture.

The sense of community and kinship in Bradford is tangible, people know each other, and work to actively better the area. From volunteers at Bradford4Better, a hyper-local community action group that organises litter picking and flower planting in the area, to people setting up food banks and soup kitchens. This sort of ‘help each other out’ mojo is missing from the community in Wakefield.

A daily commuter on the train line, it takes approximately the same time to get from Wakefield to Leeds and Leeds to Bradford, at around twenty minutes each.  With less than twenty miles separating these cities, the journey between Wakefield and Bradford takes more than an hour due to the lack of connectivity between cities in the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

t takes at least an hour longer to get to London from Bradford than Wakefield even though it is only an extra twenty miles. Image: COYB01.

According to Rightmove, the average house price in Bradford is £149,874, up 7% from 2019.  In Wakefield, the average house costs almost £100,0000 more, at £242,833, up 19% from pre-pandemic levels.

For renters like me, there is also a disparity in average rent prices. In Bradford, the average rent is £571 per calendar month, but in Wakefield, the average monthly rent is £679, according to home.co.uk.

In November, the government announced its plan to cut the Eastern leg of HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse Railway (NPR), opting to upgrade the existing network, instead.

One of the reasons why house prices in Wakefield are more expensive is because of the rail connection to London. From Wakefield Westgate, the main train station in the city, it takes only 2 hours and three minutes to get to Kings Cross.

From Bradford, the quickest commute to London takes over three hours, with only four direct trains to London every day. Changing at Leeds, which is quite often the case, can add almost an hour onto the trip.

If HS2 were to go ahead, then connectivity from Bradford to the capital would increase, meaning that more businesses from Bradford could make it mainstream, bringing more talent and money to the region.

It is a shame that these high-speed rail plans are not going ahead, but it shows that the entrepreneurs and social activists in Bradford do not need links to London to make it, the community are doing just fine here.

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