Reaction to new deal that could kickstart Bradford's long-awaited Broadway shopping scheme (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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New deal could kickstart Broadway
An early start on Bradford's delayed Westfield retail scheme could be on the cards following a new funding deal which will kickstart the development.
The deal raises hopes that work could start on the £275m scheme early next year, with completion due in 2015.
After original preparation and groundworks the site was mothballed in 2008 at the start of the financial crash.
The Telegraph & Argus understands that Australian developer Westfield will receive the funding on completion of the scheme, so has an incentive to begin work sooner rather than later.
The site – part of which is being used as a temporary ‘urban park’ – has reportedly been sold by Westfield, the world’s largest retail mall developer, but the company will still build and operate the scheme to be known as Westfield Broadway.
A spokesman for Meyer Bergman said it was not usual for it to comment until a deal had been finalised and signed.
Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford Council, said he welcomed any move that would speed up the start the Westfield scheme.
He said: “I am aware of various discussions that have been going on.
“The Council is mainly concerned about whether these will help speed up development of the Westfield scheme. We are committed to ensuring that it is completed as soon as possible to the highest standards.
“If Westfield has made a move to secure finance with another party and that leads to work starting sooner rather than later then that is good news for Bradford.”
In August, Westfield chief executive Steven Lowy hinted to a Sunday newspaper’s business supplement that the company was considering the move, saying: “We may sell it, but it will play out in a way that pleases the people of Bradford.”
Yesterday, a Westfield spokesman continued to stay tight-lipped about any deal but reiterated the company remained committed to completing the project.
He said: “Westfield is not prepared to comment on speculation. Westfield is committed to progressing the Broadway scheme in Bradford and is focused on the pre-letting of the scheme before it can commence on site.
“Westfield has in fact recently announced that Debenhams has signed an agreement to extend its proposed store in the Broadway development. This follows the latest announcement of the completion of its major anchor store lettings with the signing of Marks & Spencer. Next has also recently agreed to open a flagship store in The Broadway scheme – its second in Bradford.
“There is strong interest from a range of major stores and specialty shops given the relatively untapped retail market in Bradford city centre.”
Bradford West MP George Galloway (Respect), whose constituency covers the city centre, said: “If this really does mean that the scheme will finally go ahead then of course I welcome it. But after the farce and farrago of the last ten years I will reserve judgment.”
Last month Debenhams also announced that it wanted to extend its Westfield store to three levels rather than the original plan to open a 100,000 sq ft store over two floors. Planning permission for the alteration, which will mean reducing car park spaces by 45, is being sought.
Debenhams is one of three ‘anchor tenants’ for the project, for which planning permission was granted last year for 550,000 sq ft of retail and catering outlets, more than 70 shops and restaurants, 1,300 car park spaces and public areas.
Last week, Duncan Bower, development director for Westfield, also assured Bradford councillors it was 100 per cent behind the scheme.
“We are as frustrated as anybody – we’ve invested considerable sums and we firmly believe in the Bradford project,” he said, after giving a progress report on the scheme to Bradford Council’s regeneration and economy overview committee.
“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.
“We want to assure the people of Bradford that we want to get on with this development as soon as possible.”
At that meeting 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.”