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Public offer radical regeneration solutions at packed city centre debate

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Covering Darley Street over with a glass canopy, building a Victorian-style tramway, and opening a new central film studio were just some of the more ambitious ideas suggested by members of the public at the first debate co-hosted by Bradford Civic Society and Bradford Politics in the Pub. 

Darley Street panel L TO R Alex Ross Shaw, Simon Cooke, David Crag

Inside a packed New Beehive pub on Westgate, audience members heard opposing views on how to regenerate the ‘Top of Town’ area, with Councillor Alex Ross Shaw beginning by outlining the council’s latest Darley Street proposals in detail.

Councillor Ross Shaw revealed that the plan to create a new food-focussed market on Darley Street in the former M&S building and demolish the Oastler Centre was a “three to four year project”. He told the audience that freeing up the Oastler site for housing would support North Parade’s role as a high street, and also committed to comprehensive public realm works for the area.

However, Councillor Simon Cooke was sceptical of the council’s plan and its lack of long-term vision, and presented an alternative solution based on Will Alsop’s original masterplan for Bradford. Councillor Cooke said that shifting bits of the city centre around was like “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and argued that a housing development on the Oastler Market site was “not deliverable”. Instead, he pushed for more of Will Alsop’s radical masterplan to be realised, with a new city centre park created at the top of town.

The third and final panellist to speak was David Craig, designer and director of Assembly Bradford. David said that further retail was not the answer to the city centre’s problems, and encouraged the council to make the city centre a place where the next generation will choose to live, work and play. Of the Darley Street proposals, David emphasised the need for high quality design. “I’d like to see opportunities for cohousing, green spaces, live-work units and enterprise, not just a bunch homogenous 40 square meter 1 bed flats.” he said.

Audience members were also given the opportunity to suggest and discuss their own ideas for how to rejuvenate Darley Street and the surrounding area, with opinion firmly divided over the council’s latest proposals.

  • Local film-maker Jax Griffin said building a movie studio on the site of the Oastler Centre would bring more industry into the city centre.
  • There were cheers and applause for other suggestions to build a glazed canopy over Darley Street that could house more street markets.
  • Another audience member suggested a “Shipley Glen-style” tramway to transport people up the city’s steep streets.
  • Some audience members suggested demolishing vast swathes of Darley Street would expose the grand Victorian warehouses on Piccadilly, creating a more pleasant city centre steetscape.
  • There was also widespread support for more city centre greenery, with some form of park or public square incorporated into a re-aligned top of town.

Dermot Bolton, co-founder of Bradford Politics in the Pub said:

“We’re really pleased with the event with a great crowd of really engaged Bradfordians. While there was disagreement there was unity in the passion people feel for our city and the desire to make it a better place. We need more public discussion like this, and at @BD_PiP we’re doing our bit to make it happen.”

Si Cunningham, Vice-Chair of Bradford Civic Society said:

“We heard some awesome suggestions from some very imaginative Bradfordians. You only have to look at City Park to see that when Bradford thinks bigger, it gets better, which is why I’d love to see some of last night’s more radical ideas for Darley Street seriously considered by the council. Civic pride is alive and kicking in Bradford, so it’s only right that everyone has a say in how the city centre develops.”

All suggestions and issues raised at the debate will now be collated into a “people’s report”, which will be submitted to Bradford Council as they finalise their plans for the city centre.

Bradford Civic Society would like to thank all those who attended the debate, and would also like to thank Bradford Politics in the Pub for all their hard work in bringing this exciting new partnership together.

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