English Heritage is urging planners to refuse permission for the full demolition of Bradford’s former Odeon cinema and the redevelopment of the site.
But it argues that only the front facade and twin towers are worth keeping and a single building should be constructed behind it rather than the three planned by the developers. The public body’s comments in response to Bradford Council’s consultation process for the proposed Odeon replacement have been attacked as inconsistent because yesterday it was announced that its sixth decision not to grant the building listed status had been backed by the Government.
Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, the Council’s executive member for environment and culture, said: “On the one hand, they are saying it should not be listed but they are also saying that what is going to replace it is not suitable.
“That’s a perfectly valid point for them to make. The people in charge of the scheme have to make a decision to see whether they go forward with that particular design.”
In its response to Bradford planners, English Heritage, which acts as the Government’s statutory adviser on the historic environment, said the existing twin-towered building was an “evocative landmark” and made a “positive contribution” to Bradford city centre’s distinctive character.
It says the £55 million New Victoria Place proposals would damage the conservation area and the setting of the Alhambra theatre by the removal of a complementary building.
Its letter states the planned development would be a “dominating” building, much taller and with no stylistic similarities to the Grade II listed Alhambra.
And it says national and local guidance supported the retention of the existing building’s turrets and front facade.
Trevor Mitchell, English Heritage’s team leader for West Yorkshire, was asked if English Heritage’s view that part of the building should be retained was inconsistent with its earlier view that it was not worthy of listed building status.
Mr Mitchell said: “It has been our view that, although it’s a good building, it does not reach the national standards of special architectural or historical interest to warrant it being listed.
“However, that doesn’t mean it’s a worthless building with no value at all.
“It has local value as a landmark on the skyline and a community value in that many thousands of people used it when it was open.”
English Heritage said it recognised that some aspects of the New Victoria Place proposal could bring “modest benefits”, with new offices, a hotel, homes and educational space set to stimulate the city’s economy.
It said the creation of a wider pavement and new surfacing around the Alhambra could improve the setting of the theatre, while the proposed use of sandstone as the main cladding to the new development would harmonise with the conservation area.
No-one at regeneration agency Yorkshire Forward, which owns the Odeon site, or Langtree Artisan, the development partner, were available for comment last night.