Bradford looks set to get its first underground market – right in the heart of the city’s historic trading quarter.

An ambitious scheme is being finalised to create a Victorian-style complex featuring shops, bars and restaurants.

The £1m project is being privately funded but the developers are working closely with Bradford Council to bring the idea to life by Christmas 2015. And the aim is to make trading particularly attractive to young entrepreneurs.

Council leader David Green is today making his first visit to the site of The Tunnel, the working name for the development under Sunbridge Road from Aldermanbury. He described the scheme as “an exciting concept”.

Coun Green said: “The Council first looked at this a while ago and I am looking forward to actually seeing the site for myself for the first time.”

Graham Hall, of developers Sunbridge Wells, said: “This would be like a working museum of Victorian times.”

Teams are still digging out a 12,000sq ft area of part-leased, part-sold land which would create the underground complex. Mr Hall said about 200 tonnes of earth, rubble and timber had already been moved.

“We don’t know the full extent of what there is down there. We are finding all kinds of nooks and crannies,” he said.

With access from City Park and Sunbridge Road, the retail and leisure area would link to the Arndale Mall.

There would be Victorian-style units running along the tunnel’s internal street with a large glass area above. A courtyard would have an open plan glass and steel staircase leading to Upper Miller Gate. This would be designed to bring light to the tunnel system, covered by a Victorian-style atrium entrance and exit to the shopping area below.

Close to the Council’s art gallery, the Alhambra and various restaurants and bars, Mr Hall says The Tunnel is “an ideal area for new and existing businesses”.

“This will be great for Bradford,” he said, “with likely spin-offs for tourism.”

To help ambitious young businesspeople – the 18 to 30 age bracket – The Tunnel will feature flexible trading terms.

“Unit rents will be pitched to keep costs down,” said Mr Hall, “so people don’t have to lose a fortune if things don’t work out, but at least they will have had a go.

“We want to work with all of the businesses in Bradford to create a vibrant and exciting trading area and make Bradford thrive again.

“With new developments such as the Westfield shopping centre, this is now the time to promote and enhance the talent and vibrant potential which has always existed in this great city.”

Coun Green said: “The project is still in its early stages and we are not certain what the proposals will seek in terms of Council support. But, as we do with all proposals, we will look at this carefully and hopefully be able to support the idea.

“This is something which sounds exciting and that bit different for Bradford. We will continue to work with Sunbridge Wells to see if we can take this forward.”