High streets Recovering from Covid

How will our high streets recover from Covid?


This is me on Yeadon High Street – how will the pandemic change the way we shop?

What will the high streets of Yeadon and Otley look like in future? Talking to local people, I’ve heard a lot of harrowing stories about the impact of the pandemic. The economic effects are there to see in the closed shops, empty buses and quiet streets.

I am guessing that not all the shops might reopen but I believe new businesses would be willing to open in both Otley and Yeadon.

Finding new uses

New planning flexibilities introduced in September 2020 might help businesses to respond more quickly to changing demand on Otley and Yeadon high streets.  The “Changes to Use Classes” mean that it is now much easier to change use from a shop to a café for example.

I’d like to encourage innovation and different approaches to see what works. Occasional street closures for events like Otley’s Victorian Fayre and the annual cycle race can be a real draw for the public. Yeadon Town Hall had success with its Christmas market before the pandemic, and maybe that could be expanded into the High Street? Perhaps we could also have monthly pop-up events when new businesses can set up stalls to come and show off their wares?

Some town centres actively encourage people to come and live on the main streets where commercial premises remain empty. If elected, I’d like to meet local landlords to see if there’s more potential for this in Yeadon or Otley.

Building networks for recovery

But politicians can’t achieve things in isolation and I would want to work closely with local business networks. I’m really pleased that Otley BID has secured a £7,500 grant from Leeds City Council and if elected I will certainly work hard to secure more recovery funding for the whole ward.

Combining online and shop front business

So many of our services including the NHS are being accessed remotely now and so much of our shopping is done online. Our local shops who managed to move some of their business online have lost out less than those who couldn’t. It’s clear that both shoppers and businesses without digital skills can miss out. I want the council and other partner organisations to support and increase local people’s access to digital resources and skills.

Do get in touch and tell me how you think we can help our high streets recover from Covid.


Work on Otley’s flood bank finally starts

My last look at the Cattle Market field before it’s transformed by a 1.2 metre high flood bank

Work on Otley Flood Defences at Bridge End Cattle Market have finally started today.  I know that the planned start has been delayed due to Covid and other reasons.  But our MP Alex Sobel has been involved in getting the Otley scheme moved up in the schedule – with success at last!

The plan is that building a flood bank on Billams Hill and cutting down the trees on the sandbanks below the weir is designed to protect houses below Otley Bridge. This should prevent a repeat of the Boxing Day floods in 2015, which drove some residents on Bridge Avenue and Farnley Lane out of their homes for months.

The scheme is led by Leeds City Council and the Environment Agency and it aims to reduce the risk of flooding from the current 20% to around 4% in any given year.

I know some residents are sceptical whether the scheme will work. If I’m elected to the city council, I will monitor the work closely and work with our MP, Leeds Flood Risk team, and the Environment Agency  to make sure the scheme stays on target. We’ll also need to keep an eye on the impact if there’s any flooding while the bank is being built. The role of a ward councillor must be to keep in close touch with residents and take action so any worries and problems during or after the construction works can be resolved quickly.

What do you think about the scheme? I’d like to hear from you if have any comments or concerns as the work gets under way.


Getting my first jab – Thank you NHS!

Waiting for my jab at Westgate Surgery

I had my first jab at Westgate Surgery in Otley today. As someone in the clinically vulnerable category, it was a fantastic feeling to get my first jab and know I’m on the way to being protected. A big shout out to all the local staff and volunteers involved front and backstage in the vaccine roll-out.

Everyone I’ve spoken to is full of praise for the West Yorkshire vaccine programme – we’ve seen GP practices in our area rolling out the Covid vaccine programme ahead of some other parts of the country.

The NHS, Public Health and Leeds City Council have helped build one of the strongest local partnerships for testing and vaccinating in local communities. That’s partly why our local practices are so efficient in delivering jabs. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group and our local GPs and nurses.