A NEW bar and restaurant could open in Bradford’s Kirkgate Shopping Centre as it looks to diversify in the face of “subdued demand” from retailers.

Planning documents have shone a spotlight on the reality of the shopping centre’s current situation.

With 22 units vacant when the report was prepared in June, the plans have been submitted to “secure higher levels of occupation at the centre to ensure the viability and vitality of the shopping centre and Bradford city centre”.

The Broadway, which opened its doors in November 2015 on the site of the much-maligned city centre hole, is said to have “moved the centre of gravity” for retail.

The application, for the former Perfect Home unit on the corner of Westgate and Godwin Street, has been submitted by H.I.G Luxembourg Holdings 79 Sarl which is the business name of the Kirkgate Shopping Centre.

The space has stood empty for around 12 months, but it could be given a new lease of life if plans are approved.

The application says: “Despite its long contribution to the retail function of Bradford, it is facing a number of challenges from the development of nearby sites for retail and leisure purposes, with challenges to the retail functions of high streets nationally.

“Within the shopping centre 22 units are currently vacant with subdued demand from A1 occupiers.”

It says a number of the “voids” are a result of tenants relocating to newer premises within the city, including The Broadway.

“The new centre has moved the centre of gravity for retail within the city centre to the south east and other strategic sites are also likely to come forward to increase the retail and leisure offer in the city which will compete with the existing retail space within Bradford,” the application says.

“In face of competition from other retail destinations, the Kirkgate Shopping Centre requires investment to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

“The number of vacant A1 units within both the shopping centre and on surrounding streets indicates that there is currently insufficient demand from A1 retail occupiers, reflecting the national picture.

“The change of use of this unit to allow for occupation by an A4/A3 operator will make productive use of a vacant unit, increase footfall and also increase the dwell time of consumers, therefore making the retail offer within the Kirkgate Shopping Centre and the city centre more sustainable.”

The application also reveals that discussions are “well progressed” with an identified operator and says: “The grant of planning permission for this change of use will provide certainty for this proposed occupier to assist in discussions between the owner of the shopping centre and this potential tenant.”

The occupier has not been named in the application for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

“The proposal will make better use of an underutilised site and sustain higher levels of activity that will be consistent with the site’s location within the city centre,” it says.

“This application will help the unit make a more meaningful contribution to the vitality and viability of the city centre and it will secure the retail feel of the city centre by maintaining a retail shopfront, will be accessed from the street and will be open throughout the day to ensure that it contributes to footfall and activity in the daytime and nighttime periods.”

In May last year, plans for a new £1 million facelift at the centre were given the go-ahead by Bradford Council.

The redevelopment outlined a new entrance, which would feature a two-storey glazed entrance lobby, new escalators, and a new staircase next to the escalators.

It is not known what stage these plans are currently at.

This week councillors agreed to move forward with a £21 million shake-up of the city centre’s markets that would see the former Marks & Spencer building in Darley Street transformed into a new food market, due to open in 2021, with Kirkgate Market focusing on non-food items.

Si Cunningham, chair of Bradford Civic Society, said of the new application: “We welcome anything that improves the appearance of the Kirkgate Centre while bringing a bit of life to a somewhat neglected part of the city centre.

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“It’s a relatively detailed application and the applicants have made a commitment to be open during the day, which is good for Westgate.

“Once the market improvements are made, I think Kirkgate will be a much more interesting place to visit, so it seems sensible to encourage more variety or usage – not just retail – in preparation”

Val Summercales, of the Bradford District Chamber of Trade, said they accepted shopping habits were changing and that the Kirkgate Shopping Centre formed the link between the top and bottom end of town.

She said the plans would help the day and nighttime economy and added: “We want something that brings more people back into that area.”