Morley is maintaing a reputation as a local retail destination
PUBLISHED: 16:37 07 November 2012 | UPDATED: 12:15 28 February 2013
How are Morleians maintaining their town's reputation as a local retail destination? Jo Haywood finds out
With its growing population of around 50,000, Morley is a big town within a big city. But, according to Mayor Andy Dalton, its the little things that keep its pedestrianised high street bustling in both good times and bad.
Morley is an incredibly vibrant town with a strong sense of independence, he said. Retail has taken a hammering nationally, but we seem to be bucking the trend. Its not all about our range of niche shops though, its our abundance of free parking, our flower beds, our street entertainment, our parades and our sense of pride. We think Morley is a great place to live and our energy and enthusiasm is infectious.
The town, which is built on seven hills five miles south-west of Leeds city centre, enjoyed its first boom years during the industrial revolution when it became a thriving home to numerous textile mills 42 at their peak and mining enterprises. Now the vast majority of the industrial buildings have been converted into flats and homes for the expanding population, drawn to the town by its easy commute to central Leeds, its Victorian parks, its range of facilities, its friendly welcome and its retail opportunities.
Queen Street and its tributary network of roads are stuffed with shops, cafes and pubs, many of which are members of the towns hard-working Chamber of Trade & Commerce, which has been serving the community since 1869.
The main shopping street is also home to Morley Market, which contains more than 60 units offering the finest fresh food, from bread and meat to fish and veg, alongside specialist traders selling everything from computers to carpets. Its also where youll find the popular market cafe, renowned for making tasty home-away-from-home cooked meals.
The market remains popular because it moves with the times, said Andy. It welcome new traders and has brought in innovative ideas like its loyalty card scheme.
We dont stand still for long in Morley. We change and adapt which, I think, is why weve survived and thrived over the years.
As if all this wasnt enough, Morley is also home to the White Rose Centre; more than 100 shops under one roof on the outskirts of town.
Land Centre Securities, which owns and manages the site, is expected to submit a planning application soon seeking permission to extend the complex further with a cinema, new restaurants and cafes, more shops and extensions to the existing Debenhams and Primark stores.
Since it opened in March 1997, the centre has proved extremely successful, attracting up to 13 million shoppers a year and providing employment for thousands of local people, said Land Securities portfolio director Gerald Jennings.
This investment, combined with the 350 million we are investing in Trinity Leeds in the city centre, is designed to strengthen the citys overall retail and leisure offer.
But what will it mean for Morley? The towns MP, shadow chancellor Ed Balls, believes it could be a positive move in straitened times, particularly if it brings more jobs and a knock-on retail bonus.
We need to make sure that as well as having great shopping facilities down the road at White Rose, we also get a fair share out of any development or expansion for Morley too, he said.
Local businesses continue to tell me how tough things are at the moment for them and their customers. And while most people currently travel to White Rose by car, I want to see more of them combine shopping at the centre with a trip into Morley.
Where do you prefer to shop, in an out-of-town centre or on the high street? Share your opinions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, tweeting @Yorkshire_LIFE or writing to Yorkshire Life, PO Box 163 Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 9AG.
Getting there: Morley is just five minutes from Leeds city centre. The M621 runs to the west of the town, while the M62 (junctions 27 and 28) runs to the south. There are regular bus services from Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and other West Yorkshire towns, most of which stop near the town hall. Morley railway station is on the outskirts of the town centre (in Morley Bottoms) on the Huddersfield line, offering services to and from Leeds seven days a week (although less frequently on Sunday).
Parking: There is ample free parking behind Morrisons and on Commercial Street, Albion Street, Fountain Street and Station Road.
Where to visit: You couldnt miss the town hall even if you wanted to. This grade one listed stunner sits slap bang in the middle of Queen Street, the main shopping area. Morley Market is also a must, harking back as it does to the days when stallholders were the heart and soul of a town. And if youve got a few moments to spare, pop along and say hello to Ernie Wise, whose statue brings sunshine to his home town on even the dullest of winter days.