Could a former stinking canal - shut down 80 years ago - be the key to Bradford's revival in the 21st century? Chief reporter Caroline Wright investigates a new dream for the city An amazing "back-to-the-future" plan has been drawn up to boost Bradford's fortunes.

Like Will Alsop's masterplan for Bradford Centre Regeneration, which includes a lake around City Hall, the crux of the scheme rests on one simple factor water.

But instead of futuristic fountains and sculptures this is inspired by "old" water - the defunct Bradford Canal.

Cousins Anthony Mann and Graham Hall believe that by harking back to yesteryear and rebuilding the canal, it could once again bring wealth and prosperity to the city, just as it did in the 18th and 19th centuries.

They want to rebuild the historic canal, which ran from Shipley into the city centre, as a starting point.

Then, they have devised plans for a series of landmark buildings - high-tech apartments, homes, shops and sports centres - along its banks on the flat land which is so in demand.

The cousins, of Eccleshill, say they have already spent £30,000 on the plans, because they are so convinced their vision - rather than any other - could be the answers to Bradford's revival problems.

They believe if the Bradford Canal, closed down in 1922 unused and unloved, could flow again then people and money would also flow back into city.

Mr Mann said: "Back in 1774 they thought it would work, so why not now? Back then they probably sat around at a table scribbling down notes and somebody, somewhere said let's go for it.

"So why not now? Even more so now when we have the technology to build it and the money to invest."

The plan is to rebuild the former canal and bring in investors which could include Bradford Council, British Waterways, and leisure and property developers to build on the banks.

The cousins, who are operating under the name Bradford Waterways, are now hoping that a backer will emerge to get their plans off the drawing board.

They hope the major landowners in the area around the old canal route - the Council, Tesco and British Waterways - will come on board.

But the question remains: Could their £500 million vision work?

Mr Mann said: "We are fully ambitious but not overly ambitious. I am passionate and shall pursue this until I die.

"This is all about bringing Bradford's heritage back to play a role in its future. What can be more natural than that?"

He points out that you do not have to look far for the proof that similar ideas work.

A complex of 105 flats on the canal at Brighouse recently sold in record time with £12 million of swanky apartments snapped up 24 hours after going on sale.

The same would happen in Bradford if someone was prepared to back their plan, which involves rebuilding the former wool-carrying canal from Shipley along its former course into the city centre.

He plays down the enormity of what would lie ahead because he is so convinced it would work.

"It would be like building a road - without putting the surface on it, " he said.

It's an amazing vision and it all starts off at a tumbledown, boarded-up, yet imposing former toll house next to the little bridge off Dock Lane, in Shipley.

It is at the meeting point of the two canals - and there the difference in the fortunes of the two waterways is stark.

The Leeds-Liverpool has restored footpaths and ducks on it, with fishermen and walkers flocking on the banks.

The "forgotten" Bradford Canal is a collection of bobbing rubbish, discarded plastic and strong lager cans, and looks still and grubby. But all that can change with investment and vision, say the cousins.

Their plan includes six marinas, a new "square" with water feature in the city centre, 100,000 sq m of retail of leisure development, a new business park, visitor/exhibition centre, £9 million sports centre at Bolton Woods, around 1,700 new homes, public art/sculpture and a waterbus Bradford Waterways' primary aim is to press for the funding for a feasibility study to take the scheme off the planning stage, which it is estimated would cost £300,000.

But Mr Mann says thousands are given away to fund such schemes, and that amount would in the long-term be a small price to pay to "re-claim the city from the brink of extinction".

"What we are saying is: let's have a go. If it doesn't happen, then nothing has changed so nothing has lost. At this stage what we are asking for is peanuts.

"A lot of people don't even know Bradford had a canal. But it made Bradford great before and it could once again."

Today, Bradford Council's executive member for corporate and regeneration, Councillor Simon Cooke, said he had seen proposals. "They are interesting but it is extremely unlikely that we would give it the funding for a feasibility study, " he said.

Maud Marshall, chief executive of Bradford Centre Regeneration, said: "I have seen proposals at an early stage and would like to see more details.

"I would also like more information about the company and their backers."

.What do you think about the Bradford Canal scheme? Write to the Letters Editor at the Telegraph & Argus or log on to the company's website at www. bradfordwaterways. co. uk to air your views.


The route and key points along the way from Bradford city centre to Shipley.

. . ornamental lake in front of the New Broadway development with fountains, shallow enough for people to paddle in summer and to freeze over for ice-skating in winter . . new buildings to replace "tin sheds" at Forster Square Retail Park. Area would be landscaped with top floors used for apartments . . marina across from complex with moorings, residential apartments, luxury hotel and moorings . . new retail park between Canal Road and Valley Road, including existing retailers and more . . marina to replace Hillam Road Industrial estate with a working dock to provide for narrowboats . . new marina and apartment blocks at Bolton Woods with water fountain, pub restaurant and a Barge Stop . . two football pitches and a 1,000-seat stadium, gym and swimming pool in Stanley Road, with social housing . .Livingstone Road housing in a central building to span canal, and Frizinghall Station improved . . canal through Shipley Fields Road with cottagestyle homes, and new housing in Crag Road with demolition of 1960s-style housing blocks . .Leeds Road canal passes a Lock House and Pump House dated 1872. Transform building, which dates from 1774 - probably one of the only surviving buildings of Bradford's original canal into visitor centre as "gateway" to the new canal.


Bradford Waterways says the £500 million scheme is self-financing with potential for considerable profit.

It maintains that while public funding is available for some of the infrastructure, the vast majority of finding would come from the private sector.

To secure this its plan builds in considerable profit to be attractive to developers.

And its business plan suggests that if Bradford Council invested in the scheme it could earn nearly £25 million as a share of the final profits.


1744 - discussions start by Bradford colliery owners about a navigable waterway using the rivers in the area.

1766 - ideas for building a canal from Leeds to Liverpool including a link to Bradford.

1768 - surveys of the route carried out.

Bradford, Liverpool and Lancashire businessmen discuss plans and finance for LeedsLiverpool.

1771 - Bradford Canal Company formed.

Headquarters in Manor Row, the same street as the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Company.

1774 - Bradford's Canal opened and joins the Leeds-Liverpool which is still under construction. It stretched from Shipley and came through the basin of the valley for three miles with a rise of 86ft served by ten locks in five sections and cost in excess of £6,000.

1867 - great wealth bought in by the canal, temporarily closed for clean-up due to unchecked pollution. Bradford's beck had become an open sewer and the canal drew its water from the beck. Over next six years improvements to system made.

1878 - new canal basin and wharf with warehouses built to accommodate increased trade, canal fully re-opened.

1922 - speed and efficiency of rail and roads take over from canals which fall out of favour and into decline. In mid-July Bradford Canal closes.

To present day: The canal has been gradually filled in and most of the infrastructure destroyed. In the Windhill and Bolton Woods area the line of the canal can be seen as it rises and dips on the fields.