A NEW £15m cultural regeneration fund for the North could be the key to rescuing Bradford’s long-vacant former Odeon.

That’s according to the Bradford Civic Society, which has started a petition calling for the Leeds City Region to unite behind the project and put it forward for a Government cash injection.

Last week, the Government announced its new Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund, designed to provide a long-term legacy for next year’s culture-themed Great Exhibition of the North in Newcastle-Gateshead.

The pot is expected to help fund three or four large cultural regeneration projects across the North, such as the renovation of live music venues.

Eleven northern areas, including the Leeds City Region, are being invited to bid for grants of £3m to £4m - but can only put forward one project each for consideration.

Bradford Civic Society’s petition, on website change.org, calls for the Leeds City Region to put forward the project to turn the Odeon back into a live venue. It has gathered more than 1,200 signatures since Friday.

Chairman Si Cunningham said the project was the “obvious” choice for the Leeds City Region’s Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

He said: “We are asking the LEP to put Bradford first, because we have seen some really big projects elsewhere in West Yorkshire, such as the Piece Hall in Halifax and the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield.

“We have lots happening in Bradford but there needs to be a big thing, a quite symbolic project that shows people there’s a reason to come back into the city and spend money here.”

Not-for-profit organisation Bradford Live has been chosen by owners Bradford Council to turn the 1930s building back into a live venue in a regeneration project which would cost around £15m.

But it will need significant investment from both the public and private sectors to come to fruition.

Mr Cunningham said: “We are doing this on behalf of Bradford, because we know how much strength of feeling there is for this project.

“I have never known a project in Bradford have so much universal support from all sections of the community, yet still struggle to get off the ground.”

A spokesman for the LEP said: “In the light of last week’s welcome announcement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, we will be working with partners across the City Region to draw up the strongest possible proposal reflecting our region’s significant cultural heritage and assets.

“We expect this process to include an open call for eligible projects that will then be considered for their suitability against the funding’s aims of enabling more communities, and particularly young people, to have the opportunity to take part actively in inspirational creative activities.

“We will be welcoming bids that reflect our City Region’s acknowledged strengths in the digital and technology sectors and helps achieve our vision of inclusive growth that benefits everyone who lives and works here. Further information about calls for projects will be available via the LEP website www.the-lep.com shortly.”

The Great Exhibition of the North is a Government-funded exposition designed to celebrate the best of art, culture and design across the North of England.

Bradford made it into the finals of a contest to find a host city for the event, but narrowly lost out to Newcastle-Gateshead.