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'Blank canvas' for Bradford Odeon as controversial plans scrapped

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New plans are being sought for Bradford’s Odeon cinema site after controversial plans to demolish the much-loved landmark were scrapped yesterday

David Green, leader of Bradford Council, told the BBC there was ‘a blank sheet of paper’ for new plans following the decision by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the building’s owner, to tear up the development agreement with developers Langtree Artisan.

The now–rotting 1930s landmark was due to be flattened to make way for a £35 million commercial scheme by the now defunct northern office of Carey Jones – a contentious development that finally secured planning in 2009, three years after the firm won the design contest to overhaul the city-centre plot (AJ 15.08.2006). 

However 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’.

It is understood Langtree Artisan wanted more time to market the scheme to potential occupants and was unwilling to signed the section 106 agreement which would have forced the developer to flatten the city centre building within eight months even if it was unable to start building its replacment (see full statement attached).

David Curtis, the HCA’s executive director for the North East, Yorkshire and The Humber, said: ‘Since assuming ownership for the building a year ago, we’ve been working hard to look after the building, remove potentially fatal asbestos and resolve the complex legal issues surrounding the plans for its future.

‘We know the Bradford public has been frustrated at the uncertainty surrounding the building – and we’ve been frustrated too. When it was clear that the developer wasn’t prepared to meet the obligation to commence with the New Victoria Scheme we decided to terminate the agreement.

‘We haven’t taken this decision lightly and it won’t be a simple task to resolve the building’s future.’

The move has been welcomed by local campaign groups which have been battling to save the building from demolition since the Odeon’s closure in 2000. It is also good news for Shipley-based practice Halliday Clark Architects which has been working on alternative plans for a new Bradford Institute of Performing Arts for the site for the last two years.

The rival (see attached pdf) plan would retain large chunks of the building, inclduing the iconic towers, and would house office space and potential a home for Bradford’s library which is currently closed.

Practice co-founder Adam Clark said: ’It has been a waiting game for us but now there is now frantic activity going on. David Green is fully aware of what we have done and are doing.’

‘The previous proposals were not appropriate for the site, in either scale or design.’

Halliday Clark Architects'alternative plans for a new Bradford Institute of Performing Arts for the abandoned Odeon building

Halliday Clark Architects’ alternative plans for a new Bradford Institute of Performing Arts for the abandoned Odeon building

Earlier this year George Galloway pledged as part of his election campaign to try to save and restore the ‘iconic’ cinema and called its current boarded-up state a ‘disgrace’ (see AJ 05.04.2012).

Speaking to the AJ after his Respect party win, Galloway said: ‘I’m keen to find any solution that will save whatever can still be saved of the Odeon. I’d very much appreciate [the] assistance of architects, lawyers and structural engineers to unpick this mess and start putting things right.’

Other comments:

Jonathan Brown, formerly of masterplanners Urbed which had looked at the area action plan for a new learning quarter behind the Odeon:
‘The Odeon has been an albatross around the neck of Bradford - the city’s regeneration was distracted by the battle for the cinema and it effectively missed the market. Tough this move could well be good for the City in the long-term, the saga has set Bradford back ten years.’

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