Bradford Council has been warned the Odeon saga risks becoming ‘another Westfield’ in the eyes of the public.
Last night councillors were given a report on the progress in finding a future for the former cinema in Bradford, with some saying everything must remain transparent to maintain public confidence.
Owned by the Homes and Communities Agency, the cinema has been offered to the Council for just a pound, and a decision must be made by the end of March. The Council first wants to see how big a task it taking on such a large, decaying building would be, and last year commissioned a structural survey to look at bringing it back into use.
At a meeting of the Regeneration and Economy scrutiny committee, meeting in Keighley last night, members heard that the findings of that report were just days away. Once, released the authority can look at different options for the building, and if they do take it on would invite expressions of interest starting in April.
So far two groups have shown interest in the building - Bradford One who want to turn it into a multi purpose venue with performance space, and businessman Lee Craven, who has proposed turning it into a 3,500 capacity music venue.
But one councillor pointed out that things already risked running behind schedule, as the report was meant to have been finished by the end of January. Coun Imdad Hussain compared the situation to the stalled Westfield development, adding: “After the experience the city has had with Westfield, public confidence in the council is at a massive low.”
Barra MacRuairi, director of regeneration and culture, assured him the report was just days away, and the council was dedicated to finding a sustainable future for the site.
Chairman Andrew Mallinson said taking on the Odeon would be a “considerable financial risk,” and hoped the decision was made by councillors, in public. He said: “It is too big an opportunity to miss and get wrong. Everyone needs to understand the implications to the council of taking this on.”
The committee voted that due to the profile and financial risks, a final decision must be made by councillors rather than an officer.