Blog

While we’re now back into-the-swing of busy virtual calendars, lunchtime walks and quieter-than-we’d-like weekends, at Social Leeds we’ve been looking ahead to what is going to keep us interested and entertained in Yorkshire in 2021.

With our agency ambitions undimmed, we’re joining the rest of the nation in looking forward with hope to the year ahead– and it’s great that there is so much to look forward to in our region. From major city development projects to fantastic cultural celebrations, here’s what we’ve got our eye on for the rest of the year.

A big year for Yorkshire politics

While the possibility of delay due to the pandemic remains, local elections are still scheduled for May, to be accompanied by the inaugural West Yorkshire mayoral election. I’m sure it will be a hard-fought race, set against the unchartered and choppy national political picture. However the vote goes, 2021 will be a historic year, marking the start of an exciting new chapter for West Yorkshire and its hard-earned devolution deal. Add to this the anticipated North Yorkshire devolution deal, and it’s shaping up to be an exciting year of real progress for devolution.

A spotlight on Leeds

Following the announcement that Cllr Judith Blake has been chosen to be a Labour Party peer in the House of Lords (and many congratulations to her), Leeds City Council will need a new leader to play a critical role in driving forward COVID-19 recovery and the levelling-up agenda, particularly when it comes to securing the transformational transport funding that the city has campaigned long and hard for. All eyes are on HS2 and the eastern leg – here’s hoping for good news on that investment early in the year.

Talking trains, with Leeds City Station’s brand-new Platform 0 recently completed, passengers are set to see more changes in the Station on their return to the city. As a team of regular commuters, we’re looking forward to getting back to the office and seeing the new and improved city centre – major transformations to areas like the Headrow, work on buildings like the Majestic, and better pedestrian access around the city are all things we’ll be exploring when we’re back in the office.

Turning to our towns

And let’s not forget the landmark year that 2021 is set to be for Yorkshire towns. The Future High Streets Fund has awarded £96m to seven locations across Yorkshire and the Humber (with Sheffield – my university city – as one of the big winners), while Towns Fund applications are to be decided for places like Dewsbury (where we worked on the local consultation), which will see up to £25m of funding made available to progress key regeneration plans. We’re all familiar with ‘build back better’ – it’s great to see our region’s towns having the opportunity to invest in their futures as well as our fantastic cities.

Recrafting culture

While cultural venues have continued to adapt, inspire and innovate in the face of the COVID-19 challenge, we look to summer with hopes of seeing the reopening of some of the fantastic places for which our region is famed.

Led by industry experts, Welcome to Yorkshire’s Tourism Recovery Task Group are working hard to ensure a successful collective resurgence for Yorkshire tourism. The reopening and resurgence of culture has a huge role in the economic recovery from Covid-19. And we’re lucky to be seeing this work up close through our support of The Piece Hall. Task Group chair and The Piece Hall CEO, Nicky Chance-Thompson and her team are working incredibly hard towards a safe reopening for the Grade I listed building soon, with the summer set to bring big names like The Kaiser Chiefs and Manic Street Preachers to Halifax to boost spirits. We can’t wait!

Bringing the best of Bradford to the fore, the Bradford City of Culture bid is also due to be submitted this year. The winner, set to be announced in December, can look forward to the potentially transformational impact on investment that previous title winners have enjoyed. The whole region will benefit if Bradford is successful – we’re right behind it.

Getting sporty

With notable sporting fixtures like the England vs India test match scheduled for Headingley (tickets already booked) and Leeds United looking good for a stay in the Premier League, we’re ready to welcome the best of live sport to the region once again.

Slowing the pace a little, our Social team are also making a commitment to get outside to boost our health and mental wellbeing as part of Welcome to Yorkshire’s brilliant #Walkshire campaign. We’re enjoying seeing people across the county make the most of some breath-taking walking routes. It’ll be even better once the weather warms up!

Going green

Beyond the pitch, the spotlight will only strengthen on going greener. If 2020 was the year to rethink our impact on the planet, then 2021 is the year to secure the policy that protects it.

Progress towards regional Net Zero targets will be a major focus, with leading organisations keen to build on some of the environmental opportunities that remote working has presented. Already, almost all combined and local authorities in the region have set more ambitious Net Zero targets than the Government’s 2050 national target; just last week Leeds launched its roadmap to 2030.

Tackling the climate emergency will be a major priority for the incoming West Yorkshire Mayor, with the region’s local authority leaders having agreed a joint regional Net Zero target of 2038. They also won an award from the Municipal Journal (MJ) at the end of 2020 for their collaborative leadership on the climate emergency, in which transport and infrastructure are major priorities.

Looking South, work has already begun on building a network of cycling and walking routes set to boost active travel across South Yorkshire as part of the Transforming Cities Fund, and work has been progressing around the transition to net zero by 2040. And in Sheffield City Region, the LEP’s £1.7bn Renewal Action Plan set out a roadmap for building a stronger, greener and fairer South Yorkshire in the wake of the pandemic.

The list goes on. But from sporting success to the return of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb season (I’m told that while there will be no Wakefield Rhubarb Festival this year, we can still treat ourselves to a crumble), it looks like Yorkshire is set for a ‘reet good’ year.

Now then 2021, let’s get started.

If you or your business fancy coming along on our 2021 journey, then you can find out more about Social by getting in touch with Managing Director (Leeds) Pete Wrathmell at pete.wrathmell@social.co.uk