Proposed Huddersfield Park Catalyst For High Growth ‘Glocal’ E-commerce Initiative?

Farnley Estates, proud owner of around 1,500 acres of stunning countryside in South Huddersfield, England wants to create a rural park to preserve its financial future and to ensure that the area can be enjoyed by generations to come. E RADAR's Will Roebuck suggests this could be the catalyst for transforming the South Pennines region into a high growth local e-commerce marketplace to take on the world.

What an opportunity for Huddersfield and the South Pennines! Farnley Estates wants to create a tourism hub which will invigorate and transform the local economy. The Estates would provide greater access for community activities, health, sport, leisure, recreation, education and enterprise. But it will also create new jobs and business opportunities across the local supply chain. It's an ambitious project, but one that could really put Huddersfield on the map as a tourist destination, as well as providing facilities and amenities for local people. Importantly, it's also a way that brothers Paul Sykes and John Sykes, who own Farnley Estates can make sure that our outstanding countryside remains for generations to enjoy.

Innovation and enterprise has always been at the heart of Huddersfield's unique character. The town is still the third largest manufacturing base in the UK and has more listed buildings than Bath. The University is a market leader in business and technology. We're also privileged to have breathtaking countryside around us and experience a genuine warmth and generosity in local communities difficult to match elsewhere.

The Sykes brothers' plan is a clever proposition for the local economy. With Yorkshire still riding the wave of success from the Tour de France event this Summer, figures by Deloitte for VisitBritain predict the tourism industry's worth to the economy is likely to grow from the current £127bn to £257bn by 2025, representing 10% of UK GDP. Not only that. In our fast world of interconnectivity and an 'always on' society we just don't take enough time out for ourselves in pursuit of that elusive work-life balance. Jo Fairley, founder of Green & Black's chocolate mentioned during Kirklees Business Week that up to half of the UK's employees are miserable at work. 131 million days were lost due to sickness absences in the UK in 2013, according to the Office for National Statistics. Ironically, of the larger public sector organisations sickness rates are highest for those working in the health sector.

Resolving a few practical local issues might just help the proposals. For example, Kirklees Council could cut the crap with current plans to develop Castle Hill and bring land holdings there into the Park's framework. Instead of a hotel let's have a visitor's centre up top with restaurant/cafe (and maybe archeological research) facilities. Owners of Storthes Hall which adjoins the Farney Estates to the South could consider development of rural conferencing facilities to bring more outside visitors here.

Community Devolution

Local village communities can benefit too. Shepley Village Association is already muting the idea of entering the Britain in Bloom competition to help deal, in part, with antisocial problems such as dog fouling and litter, but also to support the notion of 'citizenship' and pride in the local community. What will really drive the Council's plans for local 'community' devolution is a rural economic strategy that everyone can buy into.

High growth local e-commerce marketplace

That economic strategy needs to be part digital, providing a framework for 'smart villages' that also touches on the political, social, and cultural fabric within local communities. To achieve this, we need robust, reliable and fast connectivity across the South Pennines region to support businesses, communities and local people.

But, I believe that there's an even greater prize to be won. One that needs a leap of faith not only from local businesses, community groups and residents, but from Kirklees Council too. To transform Huddersfield and the South Pennines into a high growth local e-commerce marketplace to take on the world.

Local suppliers and supply chains are far more trusted than many big market players. Partly because they keep an eye on what their customer wants, partly because they've got a good local reputation. So let's get smart and use this competitive advantage. Let's get all our local suppliers into e-commerce market hub: not one that just provides information and is focused on business in Kirklees; but one that is customer, consumer and supply chain driven, and which can sell our local products and services to the world. Consider village and town community interest companies coming together each to manage locally the South Pennines 'distribution centre'. This is a smart economic plan to create growth, bring jobs, investment and wide ranging opportunities to the local economy.

Online Trust / Smart Marks

Online trust is a major barrier to take up of the digital economy. If we can brand a local e-commerce market hub using a trust mark with the support of local businesses, relevant trade associations and Kirklees Council, Huddersfield and the South Pennines region can become an even greater economic powerhouse.

Councillor Graham Turner told me at a recent meeting on devolution that Kirklees Council wants to take more risks. Here's now an opportunity to do it. All it needs is faith and a carefully considered economic plan that also manages the risks!

E RADAR Social E-commerce Enterprise

E RADAR is currently developing an e-commerce and social collaboration platform to help enable local businesses and communities get the most from the digital economy.

If you are interested in finding out more about our platform please contact me Will Roebuck, [email protected] +44(0)7428 253510.