A new city centre railway station, regional devolution, and encouraging Bradford to “think bigger” were all hot topics of discussion at November’s meeting of Bradford Civic Society.
Members welcomed Leader of Bradford Council, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, and Executive Member for Regeneration, Cllr Alex Ross Shaw to the meeting, which took place at the Midland Hotel on Tuesday 14 November at 7pm. Also present were the Chair, Vice Chair, Exec Secretary, Treasurer and trustees of Bradford Civic Society, as well as approximately 35 members. Apologies were received from the Membership Officer.
Cllr Hinchcliffe gave an overview of how regeneration was progressing in the district and reaffirmed the council’s commitment to enhancing Bradford City Centre as the district’s “front door”. When challenged about the proposed closure of the HMRC office in Centenary Court and whether Bradford’s image was to blame, Cllr Hinchliffe insisted that poor transport and connectivity was the deciding factor for Bradford losing jobs to Leeds. She encouraged Civic Society members and Bradfordians to be more confident about the district, and talked about how often she had to remind those elsewhere that Bradford is a big city with a lot to offer.
Cllr Ross Shaw took members on a “whistlestop tour” of the city centre. Beginning at Nelson Street, he revealed how a new sixth form college there will bring over 1,500 students and teachers onto a city centre campus, providing added footfall for the city. Next door, plans a campaign to include the Interchange site on a proposed Northern Powerhouse Rail station were discussed, and a representative of the campaign encouraged members to pledge their support for the project at nextstopbradford.com
You can find the pledge link here, and Bradford Civic Society encourage all members to lend their support:
Cllr Ross Shaw said that a consultation into developed plans for Forster Square Station will be taking place over the next few weeks. He also updated members on the progress of the proposed creation of a new market on Darley Street in the former M&S building, and said that detailed plans were currently being drawn up.
The Oastler Centre site will become the subject of a 5 acre “masterplan” that could see the creation of a new urban village at the top of town.
Cllr Ross Shaw also talked members through plans to turn part of City Hall into the National Rugby League Museum, and discussed how the council was also exploring the potential to include a more generic civic museum space as well as a public cafe/restaurant.
Both councillors were challenged on a number of areas, including the cancellation of plans for a city centre swimming pool; the lack of performance space for amateur theatre groups in the city centre; the congestion around Canal Road as a result of the new Bolton Woods urban village; and the state of shop fronts on Ivegate.
On the shopfront issue, Cllr Ross Shaw assured members that the council was working with the building’s owners to find an appropriate replacement for the Victorian shopfront that was ripped out. There were discussions around the possibility of making Bradford Civic Society “consultees” on certain planning applications, to give members more of a proactive and effective voice on heritage matters. This is something that will now be fleshed out between the Council and the Chairman of Bradford Civic Society. It’s also understood that the Townscape Heritage Lottery project is progressing well, and there will be further announcements soon.
On the subject of the Odeon, both Councillors thanked Bradford Civic Society for their support in encouraging Leeds City Region LEP to bid for additional funding from the Northern Cultural Regeneration fund. It’s understood that the LEP is considering a number of bids from the region, but that the Civic Society’s near 3,000 signature was noted and well received. An announcement is expected before 30 November.
Finally, the Civic Society’s Chair, Si Cunningham, unveiled plans for the first round of Blue Plaques for Bradford and gave members a glimpse at how they could look. The proposal received a positive reception, and members agreed to support plans for a flagship plaque in Thornton at the Bronte birthplace, and hold a public meeting in January to discuss other potential sites.
Also in attendance was Molly Wright, of the Next Stop Bradford Campaign, who spoke to encourage members to pledge their support for the Northern Powerhouse Rail Project.
The next meeting of Bradford Civic Society will be in January 2018, date TBC.
The Ghosts of City Hall event will take place on Wednesday 29 November.
The Civic Society Christmas lunch is on Sunday 10 December, from 12.45pm at the Great Victoria Hotel. Tickets £16 including three course meal, all welcome.