AS businesses in Bradford city centre are invited to sign up to a scheme to help improve their buildings, a similar project that has transformed areas of Keighley is drawing to a close.

Earlier this year Bradford Council secured the first step in £2 million funding to restore city centre buildings to their former, Victorian glory.

Once up and running, the Townscape Heritage project will allow businesses to apply for help in funding the restoration of shop fronts and converting upper floors of businesses into housing.

The announcement came at a time when a similar, £2.7million project in Keighley began to wrap up is drawing to a close after six years.

The scheme focused on the older part of the town where the impressive Victorian and Edwardian commercial and civic buildings needed investment to preserve their character for the future.

Training and community activities took place to encourage property owners and local groups to get involved in the area’s transformation and see the potential and value that historic properties have.

Among the changes made is the refurbishment of the arcade on North Street, with Victorian shop-fronts reinstated and the offices on the upper floors being converted to apartments.

The Grade II listed former Liberal Club on High Street, now a Jean Junction shop, was refurbished with a staircase reinstated to allow access to neglected upper floors. A traditional shop-front was installed which has made a significant difference to the appearance of this impressive and prominent building.

Another success story was M and J Framing at 14 High Street. Research was carried out into how the individually designed building would have looked when it was first constructed and the result has transformed the appearance of the building on this prominent gateway to the town centre by reinstating authentic shop-front and windows to the upper floors as well as repairs to preserve it for the future.

Saira Ali Team Leader, Landscape Design and Conservation at Bradford Council, said: “The Townscape Heritage Initiative has helped the residents of Keighley and property owners in the project area to rediscover the history and architectural wealth of their town centre.

Nineteen properties have benefitted from restoration and repair of lost or decayed traditional details, as well as making empty space fit for new uses. Pavements to the principal streets have been restored to natural stone paving complementing the architecture and local stone of the fine and varied buildings.”

Jon Ackroyd Keighley Townscape Heritage Officer at Bradford Council, said: “The Townscape Heritage Initiative has awakened a broad audience to the importance of heritage. From introducing students and the public to the traditional skills necessary to maintain and restore the fine buildings in Keighley Town Centre, to breathing life into abandoned spaces above town centre shops, both building owners and the economy of the town have benefitted from the investment made into the heritage of Keighley.

“The visual impact of restoring buildings such as The Arcade on North Street and shops on High Street and Church Street is clear for all to see, and the restored frontages encourage confidence and pride in the commercial heart of the town.

“The rich history and architecture of Keighley is being highlighted at present by restoration of town centre buildings and at Cliffe Castle Park. The Townscape Heritage Initiative has helped install shop-fronts to original plans to town centre buildings, repair roofs and restore damaged or missing stonework.

“The pavements of some of the key historic streets have been re-paved in natural stone. Property and business owners can now appreciate the importance these building make to the identity of the town, as well as understanding better how to maintain their buildings in the future”