Galloway demands inquiry into Bradford Odeon and Westfield debacles
George Galloway has called for a government inquiry into the ‘regeneration crisis’ in Bradford after controversial plans to demolish the city’s much-loved Odeon cinema were scrapped last week
The MP for Bradford West, who vowed to save the cinema from a Carey Jones-designed replacement as part of his election campaign, has asked Eric Pickles to investigate the ‘policy failures’ which led to the ‘iconic’ building becoming a ‘shrink-wrapped…scar’ .
Galloway has also urged the government to look into the delays over the much-publicised Westfield ‘hole’ - the huge abandoned plot across Bradford’s city centre earmarked for the long-awaited shopping centre (see AJ 25.02.2010).
Last Thursday (20 September) the owner of the Odeon, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), tore up the development agreement for the site with developers Langtree Artisan.
The now–rotting 1930s landmark was due to be flattened to make way for a £35 million commercial scheme – a contentious development that finally secured planning in 2009, three years after Carey Jones won the design contest to overhaul the city-centre plot (AJ 15.08.2006).
Due to continuing uncertainty about the future of the proposed project and the failure by Langtree Artisan to sign the section 106 agreement the HCA terminated the deal and said it would now be looking at ‘other means of securing a commercially viable outcome for the site that meets the regeneration objectives of the Council and the people of Bradford’.
George Galloway’s letter to Eric Pickles
Dear Secretary of State,
I am writing to you about the decision by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to cancel the agreement with Langtree which would have seen the demolition of the iconic Bradford Odeon and more generally about the regeneration crisis that seems to have been going on in Bradford for a number of years.
As you will know, there are two symbols in Bradford of [the city’s] decline and the mismanagement of the process of trying to reverse that decline. The first is the Bradford Odeon, now shrink-wrapped in order to safeguard the public from asbestos and no doubt falling masonry as the deterioration of this building has proceeded apace. The second is the so-called Westfield hole, a chasm in the heart of the city centre that stands as an indictment of the failure of a retail-led plan to try to regenerate Bradford.
My victory by a majority of over 10,000 in March was in no small part a product of the disillusionment amongst many in Bradford with what has happened to their city. The issue of the Odeon was central to my campaign and it was clear from the result that there not only was no mandate to demolish the Odeon, there was a very clear mandate for it to be saved.
In the aftermath of that election, I wrote to the Prime Minister to ask for a wide-ranging inquiry into the policy failures which have led to the current situation. I had a reply from him to say the matter had been passed to the Housing Minister for consideration. Unfortunately, I have not heard any more since. I would, therefore, like to renew that demand for an inquiry to get to the bottom of the policy failures which have left Bradford with these two scars in its city centre and more generally left it with acute pockets of poverty and rapidly rising unemployment.
I believe such an inquiry is essential to learn lessons from what has gone wrong so the mistakes are not repeated. It is also essential that we look forward, especially now the Odeon has been saved from demolition. It goes without saying that what Bradford needs is inward investment properly targeted so there is sustainable economic growth in the city. This is certainly essential if the Odeon is to be saved as the vast majority of Bradfordians wish. I am therefore also writing to ask that the government does everything possible to help generate that inward investment in general and the investment the Odeon needs in particular in order to reverse Bradford’s decline.