"The town is thriving" - New report shows Hebden Bridge is on the up as visitor numbers remain strong

Hebden Bridge is on the up - and business owners say the town is thriving thanks to an increase in visitor numbers.
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A new report from Place Informatics, provider of footfall and location visitor behaviour data, has named Hebden Bridge as the top performing town in Yorkshire and Humber based on footfall data from 2022 compared to 2019.

In July 2019, Hebden Bridge had 228,125 visitors, and recorded 227,697 visitors in July this year, and was the only town in Yorkshire and the Humber not to experience a percentage drop in numbers.

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James Wilthew, owner of the Afghan Rug Shop in Hebden Bridge, said: "Hebden is very picturesque as a town, framed by beautiful rolling Yorkshire hills, parks, canals and lots of green space surrounding our many lovely shops and places to eat and drink.

Hebden BridgeHebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge

"It’s easily accessible by public transport and the moment you step off the train its obvious the care and attention we, as a town, puts into welcoming visitors. It’s clean and tidy and simply a lovely place to wander around.

"It’s a perfect place to visit at the weekend, even if you live within a two hour drive. There are over 200 businesses in Hebden Bridge with a retail space, so there is a great variety too, if you want artisan soap, pottery, jewellery, antiques, artwork, Afghan rugs - its’s all here.

"There is very little you cannot buy in town and food for every palate - all in the most beautiful of surroundings, perfect for tourists, walkers and cyclists.

"Hebden Bridge is known for its independent shops, family run businesses and inclusive atmosphere.

Hebden BridgeHebden Bridge
Hebden Bridge

"People are a lot more conscious about supporting local businesses now too, especially as budgets tighten - and choose to shop in our town rather than a big supermarkets or faceless retail parks next to a motorway.

"The town is thriving and several new businesses have opened recently, there is a natural churn of shops like most towns obviously - but the quality of independent shop here really stands out."

Kate Henderson, of The Tonic Tribe in Hebden Bridge, said: "There’s been an obvious increase in out-of-towners enjoying the eateries and walks around Hebden Bridge.

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"As the working from home culture has increased a lot more people who live locally and would ordinarily travel to the cities and shop there have transferred their shopping habits to the local market and shops.

"I think another factor is press exposure. We met an awful lot of people walking the paths that lead to the local beauty and wild swimming spots, in particular, as they’ve read about it in Manchester Evening News and Guardian.”

Claire Sheehan, who runs a estate agents in the town, said: "Hebden Bridge is a little town with a big reputation.

"Hebden is easy to get to by train, so it is great for a day out. We have a busy calendar of events throughout the year but moreover, I think people come to spend time in a characterful and beautiful place.

"The countryside around Hebden is stunning so we attract walkers and cyclists and sightseers.

"The Craggs and the canal are great places for people of all ages.

"On top of that we have the local independent shops, cafes and bars.

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"Our high street looks different to any other place because of the independent and slightly bohemian vibe we offer and nurture.

"This is something to be treasured but every year it does seem harder and harder for small businesses to survive.

"We are a resourceful and determined lot but my worries are that the local authority doesn’t always appreciate the town and doesn’t always support us the way we would like.

"For example, what happened to Crown Street when Covid restrictions were in place. Also they have their own agenda, such as reducing parking everywhere, but how does that help a small town that relies on visitors for trade and where more and more people are having to travel in to work because local people cannot afford the ever increasing house prices and rents?

"Parking is still an essential requirement for any thriving town, whether we like it or not. Further restrictions should only come after more public parking is made available at designated sites.

"I also worry that the forthcoming flood alleviation measures will spoil the look of the town, particularly if they mess with wavy steps and the Packhorse Bridge and cut the trees down fronting the river.

"I can only hope the Environment Agency will engage with the towns folk and get our input.

"As an estate agent I know that we are a hot spot for people wanting to leave the cities and live in a cleaner, healthier environment yet still maintain the level of culture you find in cities.

"That’s why we need to support our local artists and craftspeople, which clearly happened after the recent fire. We also need to support Trades Club and The Picture House, both offer memberships are are excellent venues.

"As with any popular town or village in the UK, we also need to be mindful of the maintaining the right balance of housing.

"The dilemma is that too many Airbnb's reduces the rental stock and negatively impacts on the hotel and traditional bed and breakfast businesses.

"Yet it helps attract visitors and brings trade to other businesses. Price local and young people out and you have the Cornwall effect - no-one left to work in the cafes, shops and bars so you lose the soul and community that helped create the vibe to begin with.

"It’s all about a balance but local authorities and perhaps the Government need to set policies that address the housing shortage and maintain that balance.

"In the short term, Hebden Bridge will continue to be a popular hot spot I am sure."

Calder Ward Councillor Josh Fenton-Glynn said: "Hebden Bridge was devastated by floods two times in a five year period.

"It is a testament to the brilliant businesses, loyal community and amazing scenery that we continue to be so well visited.

"The next months will be tricky for smaller businesses but I hope people will continue to support local businesses in that time."

However, not all business owners in the town are feeling the positivity.

Rachel Jones, owner of the Weighsted shop in the town, said: "Footfall has significantly declined in my shop, so much so I have to work a 70 hour week, including six days in the shop, in order to pay the bills and a little something for myself.

"If I wasn’t tied into a lease I certainly wouldn’t be here, I’d have a job with set hours and holidays."