Councillor angry at 'hole in the heart' of city over Westfield project delays (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Councillor angry at 'hole in the heart' of city over Westfield project delays
Bradford has a “hole in its heart” which cannot heal until the Westfield development is complete, bosses from the world’s biggest shopping mall builder were forcefully told at a council meeting yesterday.
And councillors learned that there is no “Plan B” if the deal falls through.
But disappointed councillors emerged after five hours still no wiser as to the start date for building the long-promised retail centre of 70 shops.
After hearing officers had every confidence in Westfield’s commitment to finishing the project, Councillor Imdad Hussain (Ind, Heaton) stressed the importance of urgent action.
“There is a hole in the heart of our city and that heart is not beating at the moment – it’s dying,” he said.
Westfield and Council officers said revealing details could upset negotiations with possible retailers who have yet to sign tenancy agreements in sufficient numbers for work to start.
The Council’s director of regeneration and culture Barra Mac Ruairi has been involved with the Westfield development and came under fire from Councillor Gill Thornton after she asked whether officers had a Plan B.
“I only have a Plan A and that is to make the Westfield Development happen,” Mr Mac Ruairi stated.
“I think that’s a flippant answer - people have been waited for a long time for this to happen,” Con Thornton responded.
Mr Mac Ruairi denied being flippant, but explained that he and his department were committed to working with Westfield for a successful result and did not want to send out any wrong signals.
And Council chief executive Tony Reeves said: “We don’t have a Plan B, because this is the right horse to back – Westfield is the biggest shopping centre developer in the world and in all my discussions with them they have given me assurances that they are 100 per cent committed to build in Bradford.
“We cannot water down our commitment to them and I genuinely don’t think a developer and a local authority could be doing any more.”
Duncan Bower, development director for Australian firm Westfield, assured councillors it was 100 per cent behind the deal. “We are as frustrated as anybody – we’ve invested considerable sums and we firmly believe in the Bradford project,” he said.
“It does not serve our purpose to sit on our hands and it’s very heartening that Bradford Council is committed to working for success,” Mr Bower said, adding: “We want to assure the people of Bradford that we we want to get on with this development as soon as possible.”
“Anchor” stores which have signed up for the shopping centre are Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and Next.
The committee said there should be a progress report in six months.