I am writing to express my concern and to alert you to the fact that Bradford Council (the same council of Bradford City that was honoured with the UNESCO City of Film 2009 title), has approved plans to demolish the historic and symbolic New Victoria Theatre, the landmark 1930s Art Deco supercinema that is now known as the Bradford Odeon. A detailed history of the early story of the cinema can be found here: http://www.kingsdr.demon.co.uk/cinemas/newvic.htm
Currently, the cinema is unoccupied and owned by public body Yorkshire Forward who have applied to redevelop the site by knocking down the current building and building offices and a hotel to a design which is popularly held to be unsympathetic at best. None of the original Odeon building would be retained.
Although the people of Bradford have objected to this demolition by approved methods, these objections have been lost and ignored. The Bradford Odeon Rescue Group have obtained evidence to prove that many of the arguments that the Council use to justify the demolition are false – for instance that the Odeon building is beyond repair, derelict, contains asbestos and that it is no-one would want to invest in restoring the building as it is.
However, there is photographic proof that the Odeon is much as it was left when it closed in 2000, aside from superficial water damage caused by deliberately cut drainage pipes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6q4rLVeJQQ); structural surveys show that no major repair is needed apart from at one of the towers; witnesses who oversaw removal of asbestos in the 1980s have come forward; and sympathetic investors have come forward requesting access to conduct thorough surveys in order that they can put in their own planning applications which would allow the restoration of the Odeon building.
Superficial surveys have been carried out by Yorkshire Forward which suggest the interior is now altered beyond recognition from the original 1930s design and therefore not worth saving, or indeed scheduled listing with English Heritage; however, again, witnesses who worked at the cinema have come forward to say that the old interior is still present underneath later alterations which split the theatre into 2 viewing screens to cater for commercial demand.
Further information and details of the above claims can be found here: http://www.savetheodeon.co.uk
Aside from the symbolism of the building for the people of Bradford, the New Victoria Theatre/Bradford Odeon was the first art deco super-cinema outside London (and now the last remaining one in the UK). It was built entirely using Bradford companies and materials in order that Bradfordians and patrons from further afield alike could experience cinema in luxury, regardless of the ticket price. It seems ridiculous, given the City of Bradford’s status as UNESCO City of film, partly awarded for the way the city’s identity is derived through film and cinema, that this beautiful and historic cinema could have its demolition approved.
There is currently no date for its demolition, and the campaign continues to have the planning decision overturned. The planning decision is subject to a “Section 106 Agreement” which means that the demolition can only go ahead if:
1) there is funding & tenants for the new development
2) design issues with the new development are addressed
So – if UNESCO was able to make it clear that the Bradford Odeon case should be looked at transparently and with full inclusion and discussion with the electorate, due objections processes, Bradford Odeon Rescue Group and the Bradford Civic Society, this may help persuade the Council that
a) the demolition approval be withdrawn
b) the Odeon should be opened to anyone who requested it for documenting its current state and potential for development, eg potential investors, the Civic Society, the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, surveyors (a full survey is still required for any realistic restoration investment and listing application but access has always been denied) and film and social historians.
c) a full, inclusive and transparent review of the potential for restoration be carried out
d) all realistic avenues for restoration be explored before any redevelopment is considered,
e) if redevelopment has to be considered that a full and inclusive consultation be held on sympathetic designs that retain as much of the original building as possible.
I would welcome your thoughts on this matter.