On 23rd September Bradford Council Planning Committee made the descision to accept the proposal for demoltion of the iconic Odeon building in Bradford. Local people are outraged at the descision made through a simple majority of 4 to 3 councillors.
After an extremely long meeting at Bradford City Hall the 4 Conservative, 2 Labour and 1 Liberal Democrat councillors decided that the Odeon will be demolished and replaced by a new building. The members who voted for the new planned building as opposed to keeping the Odeon were 3 Conservatives and 1 Labour.
After a tour of the site, one Labour councillor said that looking around the site had “…put the cat amongst the pigeons…” and that they didn’t know which way the descision would go. Just before the vote the councillors gave an expression of interest, alluding to how they were planning to vote, at this point it was clear that the vote would stand at 2 for versus 5 against the demolition. At this point the lawyer chirped up that if they voted the “wrong way” then there could be a appeal which would inccur large costs for the council. He took them away for a half hour private meeting in which he told them the figure they would be “liable” for in any resulting appeal made by the developers, Langtree Artisan. If they voted for the demolition it would be cheaper for the council. The lawyer did everything in his power to scare the council and provided no positive solutions to the objections raised by the councillors and Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, who spoke against the demolition proposal.
After the private meeting the councillors then voted and their opinion had apparently swiftly changed for the worse as the vote stood at 4 for versus 3 against the demolition. There were just under 3,000 individual representations of objection to the demolition of the Odeon, while only one individual representation in support.
Reactions from members of public at the meeting included gasps, shouts of “Shame!” and jeering at councillors. There was also a cry of “we’ll make your life hell” while councillor Hussain of city ward was given an ovation for his condemnation of the Langtree Artisan plans. He said “I still will not vote for this proposal as I believe the building can be refurbished and the proposals are inadequate.” The odeon is in his ward, while the other councillors wards are elsewhere.
One member of the public who was present said that “It was a gutting descision, clearly the councillors have been bought, after their secret meeting, democracy could never prevail.”
One anonymous member of the council said “Well, the likely hood is we’ll have another Westfield” in response concerns from the public over whether the development would be completed. The Westfield development is the bane of the city centre, an abandoned building site once destined to become a new shopping centre, now moth-balled due to financial diffculties faced by the developers.
There are some conditions to the demolition.
1) The demolition may not begin to knock down the Odeon until they have a contract with a construction company signed and can demonstrate that they have the resources required to construct the new building.
2) There must be some amendments to the design of the new building so that English Heritage and national designers association are happy with the materials used.
On Friday 25th September 2009 the BBC will be visiting the city centre to ask local people their thoughts and opinions on the regeneration of Bradford.