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Bradford's 'Top of Town' - West Yorkshire Walks

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A walk with Jayne Winn from Rooted In and Hawarun Hussain. We started at Bread + Roses on North Parade and walked around the perimeter of the Oastler Centre, better known to Bradford people as the John St Market. Tuesday 29th September 2020, from 6-7pm.

Thanks to Hawarun and Jayne for being great guides and sources of local knowledge. As Jayne said "I ought to know, my dad scaffolded it."

The walk considered plans to redevelop the existing shopping centre into a new "city village". These plans were a surprise to participants, particularly because the existing market is well used by many people and hosts a wide range of traders and arts uses.

It was highlighted that there are a number of vacant sites, or under-used and derelict buildings in Bradford that could be converted or used to build new houses, rather than targeting an important asset. It seems that the Council are pursuing the least complex option in order to bring money and development of new houses to the centre of Bradford, at the expense of demolishing something valuable. Redevelopment of the Oastler Centre can be packaged up neatly as one site, with one landowner, demolished, cleared and then new houses built.

What this strategy ignores is a more complex alternative approach - the Council collaborating more broadly across the city in a sustained manner, leading a discussion about the greater number of vacant sites, under-used and disused buildings that exist, what these might be uses for, and to collectively define what is appropriate for Bradford and its citizens. It is worrying that the Council aren't taking on this collaborative role in coordinating and planning for change, as nobody else has the duty or authority to do so.

The walk drew out the following key reflections (acknowledging that the dire lack of local authority funding is a key constraint):

  • The West Yorkshire councils should be proactively collaborating with civic institutions, residents and business in the formulation of development proposals and change, seeking to understand and to reflect what people collectively value.

  • Council officers should have a duty to engage fully with the day-to-day life of places in which they work, coming to understand what is valuable through this engagement.

  • The West Yorkshire councils should learn from and avoid the experience of city-centres like Leeds where more affordable community, business and arts space is being displaced. There is a chance to try and do something differently elsewhere, retaining and expanding opportunities for a range of uses and not just pursuing an economic model based on shopping, eating and drinking.

Participants: Rochyne Delaney McNulty, Hawarun Hussain, Neil McKenna, Lucy Meredith, Jayne Winn, Andrew Wilson

Photos by Rochyne Delaney McNulty

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