Towns in the Aire Valley can ill afford to wait for Bradford city centre to get sorted out before they are regenerated, two senior councillors have warned.
They have reacted to a report that says while the towns centres of Keighley, Shipley and Bingley are important to the district, the city centre remains Bradford Council’s number one priority.
Written by Barra Mac Ruairi, the Council’s strategic director for regeneration and Paul North, Airedale Masterplan manager, it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the three towns, and what has been done in recent months to aid their re-generation.
The report does highlight regeneration projects in the towns, but makes clear: “The Council has the city centre as its number one regeneration priority.
“The district needs a better performing city centre to facilitate the marketing of the district, and the city centre needs a prosperous district to generate the shoppers to spend within our various retail centres. It is unrealistic to expect some of our smaller towns to be able to deliver the variety and store size we should expect from a city centre.”
Green group leader Councillor Martin Love said he was worried that by the time Bradford was regenerated, it might be too late for other towns.
He said: “Improving the three town centres can have benefits for the whole district, especially if it means people stay here instead of going to Leeds to go shopping.
“We can’t be waiting for Bradford to get sorted out, we can’t wait that long. People get into shopping habits and we need them to shop locally.”
Councillor Simon Cooke, the deputy leader of the Conservative group and its regeneration spokesman, said: “You cannot say you are not going to do anything about places like Bingley and Shipley because you are only interested in Bradford city centre.
“The message that consistently comes from the Council is that they are not interested in Bingley and Shipley. Keighley is all right, it is doing OK as a town.
“The idea we should only talk about Bradford city centre is not right. The regeneration of Bradford city centre is a sit-and-wait situation – everything is dependent on Westfield.”
But Council leader David Green denied the Aire Valley towns were being ignored.
He said: “The city centre is the Council’s number one priority but that does not mean we are not doing anything anywhere else. Those people who want to give that impression, they can do so.
“When you look at some of the investment and support that has gone in, you cannot say that we have ignored everywhere else. We have supported big and little developments in these towns.
“Everybody who looks at Bradford city centre recognises that it has been ignored for too long and needs Council attention in partnership with the private sector.”
The report will be considered by Council’s Regeneration Scrutiny Committee which meets at Riverside Mill, Keighley, on Thursday from 5.30pm.