Dear Philip Davies,
I am alarmed and horrified at the way the issue of Bradford’s Odeon building has been treated on many levels.
Firstly, I believe that the building has every right to be there, to be restored, and to be respected as part of Bradford’s skyline and cultural heritage. We are the city of film are we not? And that is one of the largest and earliest cinemas in the country. It was also a prestigious concert hall and the place The Beatles played their first gig of their first ever UK tour, as well as opening two further UK tours.
Over 2,000 people formally objected to its demolition last time they were given a legitimate role in the decision-making, and there were only two letters of support, yet still it was marked to come down. Then in the decision meeting, after many speeches and a tour of the building, the seven councillors the decision was left to indicated that they would be voting 5-2 to keep the building. A solicitor then took them out of the public meeting into a private one to tell them how much it would cost them if Yorkshire Forward were to sue them for making that decision. By the time they came back to vote, they were 4-3 to knock the building down. Yorkshire Forward have since said that they would not have sued.
I believe that this case meets all the criteria involved to be called in. It does so as follows:
1)The planning application is a “departure application” because it is contrary to the RUDP (Bradford’s Replacement Urban Development Plan) which has statutory authority because it has been approved by the Secretary of State. On this ground, alone, the decision should have been called-in.
2) The planning applications have cause considerable local and national controversy – more than enough to trigger a “call-in”.
3)There are significant design issues relating to the NVP4 plans, especially as they to be built within a Conservation Area.
4)The proposed development will damage the setting of listed buildings – the Alhambra and warehouses in Quebec Street.
5)Bradford Council has a conflict of interests because it owns 40% of BCR who are sponsoring the development and so is compromised as a decision maker.
6)The plans are not for a speculative build but are dependent on finding finance and getting tenancy contracts in place before going ahead so allowing the possibility of a Westfield-style fiasco.
7) Demolition in a Conservation Area can be allowed only where the developer has provided justification for doing so under Planning Policy Guide 15, 3.19, relating to, (i), costs and feasibility of retention; (ii), whether the building could be reused for leisure purposes; (iii) the overriding value to the community of the new development in comparison to the retained building. None of these key requirements have been met. (e.g. With regard to (ii) the imaginative BORG plan has not even been considered.)
As if the above list were not sufficient justification for a “call-in”, Government Office for Yorkshire and the Humber have been bombarded with well-argued requests for “call-in”, not only from local people but from organisations such as SAVE Britain’s Heritage, The Ancient Monuments Society, the Theatres Trust etc.etc. Yet all these have been ignored.
The decision at GOYH as to whether or not to “call-in” has been removed from those officers who would normally make it and has been made by a person higher up in the organisation. As her decision seems to ignore all normal criteria for “call-in”, we can only assume that there has been interference at Government level. Could it be that Yorkshire Forward, a Government Quango (and joint applicant for this development) have been working behind the scenes to make sure that this obvious case for “call-in” has been quashed? This would not be hard to imagine when we remember English Heritage’s recent dramatic change of heart over whether the Odeon was worth saving. Did anyone think that English Heritage would have offered advanced support for the revised July 09 plans without having been “leaned on”? Had the decision been “called-in” as it should have been, something akin to a public enquiry would have taken place and much would have come out that Yorkshire Forward would prefer to keep secret.
I am not only a lifelong Bradford resident, but a freelance journalist following this saga since it came to my attention at the time the first batch of proposed plans for the building were unveiled, and it was at that point that I realised there was never any option given of retaining any part of that iconic building.
I implore you to find out why this is happening to my home, and why someone is so determined to knock it down in front of me. At 27 I still have hope that this city can be recognised at some point as the wonderful and very unique place it is, but this will never happen if it is permitted to be demolished bit by bit just as the once lovely Kirkgate Market and buildings such as Swan Arcade were in the 70s, before the buildings we have just knocked down again were built.
I don’t know enough about this situation to know who is responsible and why they are so determined to knock down the Odeon, but I do know that it is undemocratic and wrong, that people have been given chance to have their say and have done so, and been ignored. We need a voice otherwise scenes such as the protest this last Saturday in Centenary Square, people getting onto the roof of the building, and the democracy wall and replacing of signs around Westfield will continue and maybe even get worse.