Posted: 15 Jun. 2020 3 min. read

The Future of the High Street – A Perspective on West Yorkshire

As the Government’s recovery strategy gains momentum and we witness the beginnings of a phased return to school and opening of non-essential retail, what are the particular challenges facing West Yorkshire and what is the data telling us?

We have seen a frenetic level of activity as the Government has sought to support businesses – 40,000 businesses in our region alone are already benefitting from the grants and loan scheme. Despite this, there is however, a rise in numbers of new claimants of Job Seekers Allowance and this is likely to continue for some time to come.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Google data on movement of people shows us that retail activity in West Yorkshire was down 62% to the end of May compared to normal, with supermarkets specifically experiencing a 12% reduction in footfall. West Yorkshire has been hit particularly hard and it will be important to monitor how the continued changes in consumer behaviour affect our retailers and how the sector responds to those challenges.

Use of public transport, whilst slowly increasing, is still down 53% and no doubt operating with significant excess capacity. This may change, as there is a slow return to the workplace – currently nearly 60% of employees in West Yorkshire remain away from their normal place of work, but from July we expect a gradual change here.

Whilst much of the evidence reflects the hardship facing our region, West Yorkshire has performed better in terms of rent collection impact than many other parts of the country, suggesting a level of resilience that we can potentially leverage and benefit from as we move forward.

As we progress with our plans, it is useful to observe and reflect on how cities in other parts of the world are responding. Barcelona, as an example, has set out a very clear action plan on how they will start to recover and come out of lockdown. Creating 21km of new bike corridors through traffic lanes, implementing faster train journey times plus increased capacity - all whilst ensuring safe routes for pedestrians with pathways extended to 4 metres. Singapore too, is taking some tentative first steps, but with a more directive approach to compliance.

As we observe our neighbours in Europe and beyond, whilst grappling with our own recovery, we must continue to collaborate across government and the private sector.  Moving with pace, but also being cautious. As someone highlighted to me this week, first impressions are really going to count. Building resilience, but retaining the energy to see it through to whatever the new normal may be, is critical. To make the right decisions, we need better data and then confidence should win over fear - and we all have a role in securing that win. 

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Simon Bedford

Simon Bedford


Simon leads the regions development business within the Development & Assurance group in Real Assets Advisory. With more than 25 years in practice Simon has advised on major regeneration and development projects across the UK and further afield. Simon’s Manchester-based team operates across the country on development viability, land acquisition, developer procurement and strategic development projects. Over a varied career Simon has worked in local government, for an urban development corporation and several private practices including Jones Lang LaSalle and Building Design Partnership. Prior to joining Deloitte in 2008 he was managing director of a 40 strong economic development and consulting business with offices across the UK. Simon is a specialist in development strategy and delivery. He has led a number of large-scale development advisory projects across the UK and led on developer procurement, particularly on behalf of Homes England and other public sector regeneration bodies.