Letter to the Homes and Communities Agency

Below is a letter from Richard Killip to the new owners of the Odeon, the Homes and Communities Agency, who inherited her after Yorkshire Forward were dissolved. Richard writes after the news that another of the parties in the contract to demolish the Odeon – Langtree Artisan, the developer – has also gone bust.

BRADFORD ODEON, ETC.

Thank you for your letter dated 2nd March 2012 in which you include a copy of your earlier letter of 20th January. I had not received this earlier letter and can only conclude that it went astray after leaving your office. Thank you for sending it to me again.

It seems from your description that the Homes and Communities Agency have inherited a very one-sided agreement from Yorkshire Forward in that the HCA is bound by its obligations but has to negotiate with the other parties to get them to perform theirs.

I understand that the development agreement between Yorkshire Forward, Langtree Group PLC, Artisan H Limited and Langtree Artisan Limited dated 17th October 2007, by which the Homes and Communities Agency purports to be bound, states at page 42 that the signatories will be in default in the event of insolvency.

I understand also that one of the parties to the agreement, Artisan H Limited, entered receivership on 12th December 2011 after delivering only six of a planned 179 homes in Sheffield, for which they had received £1.8m from the very same Homes and Communities Agency.

As the signatories to the agreement are now in default, it is my understanding that the Homes and Communities Agency cannot be bound by the terms of the development agreement. This removes from the Agency any binding obligations in favour of Langtree Group PLC, Artisan H Limited, or Langtree Artisan Limited.

I trust that now that the HCA no longer has its hands tied with respect to the agreements made by the building’s previous owner, you will not continue to repeat that you have no option but to continue with the unpopular plan to demolish this building.

Now that this is the case, the Homes & Communities Agency is entirely at liberty to make steps towards doing what the people of Bradford want it to do – save the Odeon. I trust therefore that the Agency will enter into some meaningful dialogue about the future of this iconic building that does not mandate demolition as the only way forward.

This is my understanding of the present situation, complicated only by your colleague Tom Hustler’s comments in the Bradford Telegraph & Argus in an article dated 15thMarch in which he stated: “a separate contractual agreement had been signed, which means that one company will take over the development should the other run into difficulties”.

Should this “separate contractual agreement” continue to bind the Homes and Communities Agency into continuing with this arrangement, then I require by return a copy of said agreement. Presence of such agreement would not, of course, bind the Agency to a course of action that means certain demolition of the Odeon, as the parties could agree to a deed of variation to that effect as suggested in your letter of 20th January.

If no such agreement exists, please confirm by return whether my understanding of the present situation is correct and why comments to the contrary were submitted to the Telegraph and Argus.

As an aside, quite why the Agency would not look for an exit to an agreement with a company that’s already stiffed them to the tune of £1.8m is quite frankly completely and utterly beyond me.

I look forward to your response.

One response to “Letter to the Homes and Communities Agency

  1. Nice one, Richard! Just for interest, here’s a letter I sent to HCA last week about immediate actions they might be taking in response to the structural and asbestos surveys. I received an automatic acknowledgement, but no reply as yet.

    “It seems clear from the survey report on the (Bradford Odeon) by Lambert Smith Hampton, that the past 14 years of neglect by the previous owners of the Bradford Odeon have led to a not unexpected deterioration in its fabric and interior. The report recommends immediate work to prevent the deterioration increasing, including weather proofing to prevent further water ingress, and increased security on external doorways. Can you confirm that the building work recommended in the report is now going ahead?

    The report also states that the furniture and seating remaining in the property presents a serious fire hazard, and that this risk should be removed by stripping out the property back to a shell. Can you confirm that this work will also be undertaken, and whether the fixtures and fittings will be stored for potential re-use – or if not, how they will be disposed of?

    Finally, a pre-demolition/major refurbishment survey was undertaken by ASTRA to identify the presence [both actual and assumed] of asbestos in the former cinema building. This was an update to a previous survey undertaken in 2008. Again it was not unexpected, given the age of the building, that the presence of asbestos has apparently been confirmed at various sites throughout the structure. For all but 2 of the 108 individually identified instances of dangerous asbestos, ASTRA recommend “Removal Prior to Planned Major Refurbishment/Pre-Demolition Works”. [For the remaining 2, in the basement plant room and the 3rd floor projection room to cinema 2, they only recommend “Removal Prior to Planned Demolition Works”.] Can you also confirm whether that work is going ahead?

    You will be well aware of the ongoing interest in the Odeon Cinema in Bradford, which is an iconic structure that is important to a large proportion of the population as well as to other interested and concerned individuals like myself – for architectural, social and historical reasons. We believe that the building should have been preserved years ago, and either returned to use as an entertainments venue, or developed in a way which would have preserved its economic and business viability as a major resource for the community. Unfortunately that has not yet happened, but interest in the building has been revived alongside the upcoming Parliamentary by-election for the Bradford West constituency. I believe that all candidates have expressed an opinion on what should, or could, be done with the Odeon, and at least one high-profile candidate has said unequivocally that it should be retained. Can you confirm that you will listen to the ongoing debate, and to the wishes of the people of Bradford, and not merely assume [as the local newspaper seems to] that total demolition is the only option for the building and is ‘inevitable’. Given Bradford’s position as UNESCO’s first City of Film; the presence of the National Media Museum virtually next door; and the increasing success of courses related to film and digital media at Bradford College; as well as the Bradford Odeon’s place in the history of cinema building and film presentation; it really would be a national disaster if it were to be lost.”

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