The answer to Bradford's big hole - a station
A community garden is a nice idea, but what Bradford really needs is a single central station, says Adam Clark
Last week, Bradford Council announced it was considering creating a temporary community garden on the huge, mothballed Westfield site in its city centre, which has now been empty for almost five years (AJ online 23.02.10). The creation of a £320 million Westfield shopping centre on the site would have struggled to work whether we were in the depths of recession or at the peak of a boom.
From an economic point of view, I have always questioned why a major project such as Westfield is not developed to a masterplan, comprised of a series of buildings with interconnecting outdoor spaces, rather than a single air-conditioned megastructure.
Apart from the obvious environmental issues inherent in indoor-shopping-centre design, namely the deep plan, the creation of a series of buildings would allow the development to be built incrementally as funding and enquiries permit. This would create the urban grain that is needed in Bradford, put a stop to the random shape-making that has been in vogue over recent years, and create something that uses the basic principles of urban design and respect for context.
But all this will come to nought without a new central station connecting the northern and southern railway lines, which I believe is pivotal to any future regeneration of Bradford. Unless this fundamental piece of infrastructure is put in place, I believe the major investment required for the Westfield site or any other central site will be severely affected. Few major cities have two unconnected stations, and unlike Glasgow or Manchester, Bradford has no efficient city-centre transport system such as a tram or underground.
The creation of a single central station would provide a proper gateway for the city. The connection of the lines is technically possible, and their alignment would involve minimal land take-up. If located carefully, the station could really assist the viability of the Westfield site. Bradford has a plethora of sites waiting to be unlocked, and the increased footfall created by a central station would encourage sites to be put forward for development on sound economic and social grounds, rather than the vain hopes of regeneration companies.
So should the Westfield site be landscaped? In the short term, yes. To leave the site in its current state is not an option. The damage to the Bradford’s credibility and to all involved in the project will only worsen over time. However, the design of the temporary landscaping should be done with one eye on a masterplan that allows the site to develop over time, matching the increasing pace of the city’s prosperity, which I’m sure will happen. Assuming there is a central station, of course.
Adam Clark is a director at Bradford-based Halliday Clark Architects