The proposal to turn a warren of disused tunnels right underneath Bradford city centre into a retail and leisure development is an ambitious and ultimately welcome one.
The Telegraph & Argus has reported in the past on the tunnels beneath Sunbridge Road which have, at various points in Bradford’s history, served as a nightclub, a brewery and an air raid shelter. But the tunnels could come back into use as a shopping and leisure complex, if the scheme being discussed by developers and Bradford Council gets – well, not so much off the ground, as beneath it.
As the Westfield shopping centre begins to rise on Broadway, wouldn’t it be wonderful if work was being carried out below street level to create a very different though complementary development of boutique and independent retailers, to open at the same time toward the end of 2015?
As well as signalling a real push forward in Bradford’s ongoing regeneration, The Tunnel (as the developers have named their project for now) could be just the sort of quirky attraction to bring curious tourists into Bradford in its own right, in the way that the Piece Hall in Halifax, the Lanes in Brighton and even the Shambles in York have both provided a home for smaller retailers and a focal point for day-trippers.
The Tunnel could also breathe fresh life into that side of the city centre, creating an extra shopping destination a stone’s throw from City Park and the Mirror Pool, already a gathering place for people especially in the summer months, that extends Bradford’s retail offer and makes it a more interesting mix of small independents and high street chains.
Schemes come and go, of course, but this seems fresh and exciting enough to deserve to succeed. Let us hope that this plan for an underground Aladdin’s cave is not a mere pipe dream.