Bradford needs more people living in the city centre if it is to blossom in the future, a meeting heard.

About 40 businessmen and women from around the city gathered for an Open Business Meeting at City Hall last night to discuss what role they could play in Bradford Council’s City Plan.

They discussed ways of taking Bradford forward, with many wanting to see more people making a home in the city centre.

Other suggestions included covered walkways and allowing shops to expand on to pedestrian areas.

One man said: “A city centre is not just about shopping. You also want to eat, be entertained and have somewhere to live.”

Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, portfolio holder for employment, skills and culture, said: “City centres have to reflect modern ways. They are now more than just about retail.”

Shelagh O’Neill, Bradford Council’s economic development programme manager, discussed the City Plan and what role businesses could play in it.

“It is a simple statement of what we think the city should be,” she said, before the guests split into workshop groups to discuss four questions formulated by the Council.

Question one was ‘What is the role of Bradford city centre?’ One group said: “It has to be somewhere that caters for everyone.” They wanted more focus on independent retailers who could “create a character for the area”.

Question two – ‘What would a redesigned high street look like?’ – was answered simply: “Full of people.”

It was also suggested Bradford’s high street could be less sprawling with more cafes, restaurants, arts and culture.

The third question – ‘How do we create a city centre that is distinctive and authentic?’ – was met with various suggestions, including markets, covered walkways, extending shops into pedestrian areas, and encouraging people to live there.

The fourth question asked how Westfield could be used to stimulate further investment, with many agreeing that the city centre needs to offer an alternative to the shopping centre that will draw customers on to the street.

Council leader David Green closed the meeting, saying: “We want to say to people, come and shop at Next or Debenhams, but then go to one of our independent retailers, go to the cinema, and go for a meal.”