IT'S noisy, smells of chlorine and is not a place for the claustrophobic.

Though it is off-limits to the public, the subterranean control room beneath Bradford's award-winning City Park is now giving up some of its secrets thanks to a new, interactive website.

Developed by students at Bradford University, the website - - is giving a behind-the-scenes tour which details the remarkable feat of engineering that makes possible the stunning water feature.

Yesterday the T&A was given a guided tour of the control room by Jonny Noble, the city centre operations manager.

As children paddled and shrieked above us, Mr Noble explained the complex processes which keep the water safe and clean all-year round.

It involves the use of chlorine and ultra violet light to remove any bacteria and various grades of sand in large containers which rid the water of tiny pieces of debris.

Many more filters remove the bigger items of rubbish - from lolly sticks to sweet wrappers, not to mention plasters and leaves.

Regular water-quality monitoring ensures that the Mirror Pool is always safe for those who enjoy splashing around in it.

Mr Noble explained that the water was constantly cleaned and recycled so that it did not require too much topping up.

When it does require more water, it is taken from a bore hole at a depth of about 30 metres. If that runs dry, only then is water taken from the mains supply.

The underground room is a maze of pipes, filters, flashing lights and the occasional blast from a compressed air cylinder which provides the power for the 100 water fountains.

There are 12 different computer programmes, each lasting around two minutes, which can alter the operation of the fountains.

Mr Noble is able to remotely access the controls using his mobile telephone. It means he can instantly activate the more popular child-friendly fountains on days when City Park is busy with families and children.

He can also view images from cameras which look down on City Park.

"The specification and quality we have invested in is now proving its worth. There's no denying it was expensive, but it has been worth it.

"The investment at the time was big, but rightly so."

Having such sophisticated control panels is vital, he says.

"We can respond to situations, so if there's 200 people out there and it's a lovely day, it means we don't have to put the fountain up to its fullest extent. During the school holidays we keep fountains at a lower level."

The biggest fountain also has a tendency to "drift" if there is a breeze, so that has to be borne in mind if people are sitting down for lunch on the seats and benches which surround the pool.

He admitted that people had been accidentally soaked in the past due to wind catching the fountain. A past Lord Mayor ended up drenched during a photo-call when accepting an award on behalf of City Park.

On the control panel beneath City Park, the big fountain is named 'Bradford blast'.

Mr Noble is proud of the impact that City Park has had on the city centre.

"Last year 4.5m people visited the park. We have footfall cameras which sees people walking through, and sometimes walking back again.

"I waffle on (about City Park) because I am proud of it. It was the catalyst for confidence in 2012."

Mr Noble particularly enjoys the laser show which comes on at 11pm and the effect created by the 'fogger unit' which creates a steamy fog-liked effect on the surface of the Mirror Pool.

"The fog effect is really good when the air is still. It just coats the Mirror Pool in fog. Generally, it can look like the steam grates that you can see in New York.

"When the laser show comes on, cameras pick you up as you are walking through and a blob of light will follow you through.

"I also like the park in winter as well. When people are not in the pool, because it is too cold, it gives a space for people to sit and reflect."

Mr Noble says VIP visitors from across the UK and Europe - including leaders of other councils - continue to be impressed by the look of City Park and how it brings people together in the city centre.

"On Twitter yesterday someone mentioned those people who had been critical of the council for spending the money (on City Park) during the cuts to services. But look at it now. It has been a catalyst and has driven regeneration in the city centre."

Mr Noble said the website was new and was still being developed. He welcomed comments on how it might be enhanced.


  • CITY Park, with its Mirror Pool centrepiece, opened in March 2012 and has since won a clutch of design and regeneration awards.
  • The £24.5m city centre facility was nine years in the making, ever since architect Will Alsop unveiled his masterplan for the district in 2003.
  • Within the Mirror Pool there are more than 100 fountains of varying styles, including the central fountain which can reach more than 30m (100ft), the tallest in any UK city.
  • Bradford Council pushed ahead with its plans for the City Park despite losing a Lottery funding bid in 2007.
  • Although there have been critics who questioned the high cost of the park, the Council has credited the park with boosting regeneration and bringing more people in the city centre.
  • A report by academics last year concluded that City Park had brought the city together by “drawing in marginalised groups”.