Westfield urges protesters to leave Broadway shopping scheme site (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Westfield urges protesters to leave Broadway shopping scheme site
The company behind plans for a shopping centre development on Broadway has written to protesters occupying the city centre site urging them to leave immediately.
Westfield, the Australian developer behind the £275 million scheme, has also branded their actions “counter-productive” to marketing Bradford in a positive way to any potential tenants.
Upon receiving the letter, the group of protesters, calling themselves Occupy Westfield, vowed to stay, demanding a date for work to start.
In the letter, Duncan Bower, director of development at Westfield, states: “It’s important that we represent a united front to help market Bradford in a positive and productive way. Although your actions may be well intended, we are concerned that they are counter-productive. Rather than protest, it may be more helpful to work with the community to help get the positive messages about Bradford out to potential retailers.”
The letter goes on: “We urge you to leave the site immediately so that we can secure it and remove the risk of accidents.”
The protesters arrived at the site on Saturday and let themselves in through a side gate using a padlock key.
They have maintained a presence on the building site since, having pitched a tent on a lower part of the site and used barriers to allow them a safe passage to it. A large marquee has also appeared on a section of the site which was turned into a temporary urban garden while the shopping centre plans were delayed. The occupiers have also put up posters and written slogans on the hoardings with chalk.
They are pledging to carry out a peaceful protest for seven days or until their demands for a public inquiry and an audience at the Westfield site with Bradford Council leader David Green and local MPs are met.
Coun Green, who has also retained responsibility for the city centre and strategic regeneration issues, has already said that his offer to meet the protesters at City Hall had been declined, but that he was willing to meet them elsewhere in the city. He said it would not be appropriate for him to meet them on the site, and Westfield has now confirmed they are trespassing.
A protester, calling himself Mr V, told the Telegraph & Argus they were frustrated by lack of action.
“We want dates and we want times,” he said. “We are sick of hearing it will be ‘soon’. If Westfield want us to go, will they then hand the site back to the Council and let us deal with it instead?”
Westfield received planning permission last year for a smaller £275 million scheme of 75 shops, which would be the first phase in any development.
The letter from Westfield: To Whom This May Concern: We understand you have entered the Broadway construction site to express your frustrations with delays to the development scheme.
We appreciate your concerns but would like to reassure you that Westfield remains committed to progressing the scheme and is currently undergoing detailed negotiations to secure retailers as well as other important predevelopment activities which by their nature are not physically evident on site. Unfortunately the financial crisis and economic slowdown over the past few years have made conditions in the UK exceptionally challenging.
Despite these conditions, Westfield has remained committed to Bradford and has invested significant funds and time into seeking to progress the Broadway scheme. Like you, we are eager to start this development as soon as possible and we are progressing with the key leasing pre-lettings that need to happen before construction can begin.
In October 2011, Westfield received a revised planning permission for the scheme and we are currently working with the Council to help market Bradford as a retail destination.
In addition to Debenhams, other major anchor retailers are very near to being secured which will help build momentum and attract the additional tenants required before the scheme can progress.
It’s important that we represent a united front to help market Bradford in a positive and productive way. Although your actions may be well intended, we are concerned that they are counter-productive. Rather than protest, it may be more helpful to work with the community to help get the positive messages about Bradford out to potential retailers.
Westfield has safety concerns as you are currently trespassing on a construction site. By entering and occupying the site, you are not only endangering yourselves but also others. The site needs to be properly secured and managed to avoid the very real possibility of injury both to you and the wider Bradford public. We urge you to leave the site immediately so that we can secure it and remove the risk of accidents.
As you will hopefully appreciate from this note, despite the many challenges presented by the economic environment, slow but steady progress is being made and we sincerely hope that you acknowledge and assist with the need for positive messages about Bradford and vacate the construction site due to safety risks.
Yours faithfully Duncan Bower, Director of Development, Westfield Shoppingtowns Ltd