Column: Reflection with Canon Hilary Barber - Discovering England’s best kept secret
Some of you will remember the review of Local Government back in 1974 – and suddenly here we are 50 years later.
I arrived in the summer of 2007 – moving out of the city of Manchester with a young family to a place I didn’t know and a borough that I had never even heard of. I regularly drove across the M62 corridor to Lincolnshire to visit the In-laws, but never sucked in to visit.
But perhaps on reflection, Calderdale isn’t a place one drives through necessarily on route across the country – one comes to Calderdale usually for a purpose? I can still remember the first time I drove through the cut at Ainley Top. As I drove off the motorway and onto the Elland bypass it took my breadth a way – it still does on a regular basis.
Halifax and Calderdale I soon discovered was England’s best kept secret and every time family and friends came from the south to visit they were gobsmacked at what they found.
In the time that I’ve been here, Halifax has seen a subtle transformation. Gone are the days of a hung council when nothing ever really happened. We now have a stable administration that is taking decisions to improve the town and people’s lives for the better.
Not long after I arrived came the economic crash of 2008 when we nearly lost the bank and the town’s identity. In 2015 came the first of the floods in the valleys, bringing destruction and the reality that the climate change emergency was real and not far away.
Much work in recent years has been done to take the town and the borough forward in a cohesive way, and as we take stock of what has been achieved in recent years, one only has to look at the other town on the M62 corridor, and see how resilient and robust the communities of Calderdale are in the midst of hard times.
Is Calderdale perfect? No of course not. Once next year has been and gone, we shall need to refresh the vision for 2025 – 2035, and set out our sights on how to build on what has already been achieved, and try to envision how we want the town and borough to look in ten year’s time?
I want to live in a place where I can bring up my children in safety and with a good education. I want to have secure employment and enough money that enables me to live comfortably. I want to be healthy and enjoy the built environment which makes Calderdale special. I want good transport links that connect me to the northern cities and to London.
I want to live in a community where the equality gap is getting smaller and not larger, and where life expectancy is more equal. I want to live in a place where climate change is taken responsibly by everyone and not just the few. I want to live somewhere where I can grow old and know that I will be cared for when I can no longer care for myself. I want to live in a place where everyone can thrive and be happy.
What do you want for Halifax and Calderdale in the future?