Are we having an identity crisis?
How an area identifies and brands itself is key to its success, but talk this week of turning Huddersfield into a city has divided people.
The business community seem to think it’s a good idea.
The Examiner’s front page headline ‘let’s turn this town into a city’ was positive - as a local paper we should support anyone who puts their effort into raising the profile of our town even more.
From the hundreds of comments I’ve seen on social media there is a lot of negativity about dropping our town and becoming a city.
I tend to agree with them.
Other than a burst of publicity in the short term, I can’t see in the long run what difference city status for Huddersfield will make.
It gives the impression that we think Huddersfield as a city would be strong enough not to need our neighbours for success.
But we do need them.
Thousands of people leave our town every day and travel elsewhere to work. We’re not parochial when we want a job.
Thousands of people travel into Huddersfield to study; leave to go shopping, to gigs, restaurants, on holiday; visit as tourists; and we may one day have to leave Huddersfield to go to hospital - I hope not!
I feel people think in terms of borders geographically, yet not in every day practice.
The business leaders say that becoming a city will attract new industry. They know far more about business than I do, but as a layperson I think it’s more simple.
I think new industry will be attracted by cheap and available land, favourable rates and good access links.
Land issue is a bone of contention and being debated currently with the Local Plan public inquiry.
Compared to the population of Huddersfield or Kirklees, only a handful of people will shape that argument and the people who will determine the outcome are planning inspectors.
Business rates are set by government, but that could change if the Leeds City Region (LCR) or Yorkshire wrestle powers away from the government. And our voice in the LCR, which Kirklees Council is part of, and Yorkshire is stronger than our voice countrywide.
Major access links that could attract new industry are also not decided solely at a local level and it won’t be funded solely by Kirklees Council.
Such decisions are made at a higher level - a mix of government, the current LCR set-up and Kirklees Council.
I fear Huddersfield promoting itself as a city would be in conflict with the work that is taking place to boost the region as a whole.
And if the region as a whole prospers, we take a share of the spoils.
So which is the stronger banner for us to prosper under?
Previously, when people asked where I was from I replied ‘Manchester’ when in fact I grew up in a town in Tameside, a borough of Greater Manchester.
It’s easier globally to upscale ourselves to the nearest major city or region.
Nowadays, I’d reply that I lived in Yorkshire and I feel as the Yorkshire brand is so iconic it’s that we need to tap into.
What we need to do is brand ourselves within it.
What do we as a borough want to be known for? What should our brand in the wider region be?
Textiles, manufacturing, the university’s research work, our villages as tourism locations, our towns and buildings as TV and film locations, our rural beauty - these are the things that sell our area.
And some of those fall outside Huddersfield geographically.
Let’s be the best town rather than at the end of the city list.