A PANEL of experts and dozens of people took part in a debate about the value of Bradford's much maligned High Point building tonight.

During the evening the building was described as an important part of the city's architectural history, and possible uses for the building were mooted, including offering the building to the Tate to create a new art gallery.

In an event organised by Bradford Civic Society, the brutalist skyscraper, which has been empty for 20 years, was discussed by a panel including Guardian journalist Sir Simon Jenkins, Catherine Croft, Director of the 20th Century Society, Vijay Taheem, Bradford architect and senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield’s School of Art Design and architecture and Jordi Campo Bria, originally from Barcelona and who has been with Bradford-based Yeme architects.

Sir Simon argued that the imposing building, on Westgate, should be demolished, while the others on the panel argued in its favour.

The majority of the people who attended the meeting were also in favour of keeping the building, and finding a new use for it.

High Point was built in the 1970s as the headquarters of Yorkshire Building Society, and an example of the brutalist style that was popular at the time. It remains one of the most prominent buildings in the city centre.

Mrs Croft said High Point was an important part of Bradford's post war history, and should not be erased from the city's skyline. She said: "There are lots of fabulous Victorian buildings in Bradford, but there are some great modern buildings that we need to preserve too.

"They show how cities have evolved.

"By trying to erase the legacy of brutalism you are simplifying the history of a city."

Mr Taheem said: "People regret that a lot of historic buildings in Bradford have been demolished. Would we be making the same mistakes by demolishing this building? By erasing something we might find unattractive now we might be taking something away from future generations."

Sir Simon described the brutalist style of High Point as "F - You" architecture, created by architects who were rebelling against previous generations. He said: "Those architects would never live in these buildings, or go near them, but to them it was a highly political statement to the world."

He disputed the claim that the building was beautiful in its own way, and said that to "correct the mistakes of the past" it should be knocked down.

Future uses of the building suggested during the debate included a climbing wall, with facilities inside the building, and a return to office spaces. Members of the audience suggested an arts space, and even offering the building to the Tate to make a Yorkshire branch of the popular modern art gallery.

Sir Simon added: "Something has to be done with it. Most brutalist buildings are very difficult to re-use. You need someone very rich to look after it, otherwise it will stay there as a ruin."

Mrs Croft pointed out that High Point was still in "amazing condition" for a building that had been empty for so long.

When one person in the crowd suggested the people of Bradford find a way to take ownership of the building and bring it back to life, Mr Bria said: "You could say that for a lot of buildings. Which would you do first? Do you choose High Point before Cannon Mills? Or Whetley Mills?"

The meeting heard that the future of the building would ultimately be dependent on its owner, who the Civic Society had been unable to track down before the debate.

At the end of the debate most in the audience said they would prefer to see the building remain rather than being torn down.