CONCERNS that an area of the city centre has reached “saturation point” for bars has led to Bradford Council blocking plans for another new venue.

Planners said there was a “fine balance” they had to maintain in the Top of Town area of the city - between bars that only opened in the evening and businesses like shops and cafes that attract footfall throughout the day.

And this has led to them refusing an application to turn a prominent empty shop, the Cooker Store on the corner of Rawson Square and North Parade, into a bar and restaurant.

The application, by Haseeb Raja, has just been refused, with planners saying it would harm the vitality and diversity of the area. They said that there seemed to be little evidence the business would open during the day, and this would further lead to the North parade area being a place that only attracted crowds in the evening.

The decision has been welcomed by the Bradford Civic Society, which had objected to the plans for the same reasons, and the Bradford Chamber of Trade.

In recent years North Parade has become central to the resurgence of the city’s nightlife, with multiple bars opening and the area earning the nickname the Top Of Town.

But as more bars have opened, concerns had been raised that a street that was once one of the main shopping areas of Bradford was now becoming a place that only really came alive in the evening.

When the Telegraph & Argus visited North Parade just before 5pm yesterday just five of the road’s 10 bars were open. Many that were open only open their doors mid afternoon.

Refusing the Cooker Store application, planning officers said: “The vitality of this part of the city has changed in recent times, with a shift from predominant retailing to a mix of retail, leisure and commercial. This appears to have had a positive impact on the perception and activity, particularly on North Parade, although this is clearly a fine balance.

“Daytime vitality and activity is essential to ensure that the street remains attractive at all times and that the range of businesses and attractions is balanced and sustainable. The character of the street is historically vibrant and retail based. If this was to shift and result in restricted daytime activity and footfall, this would have an adverse impact.

“There are concerns that the building will be closed during the daytime hours and that this will result in a property that appears ‘shut down’ and thus fails to contribute to the levels of activity during several hours of the ‘working day’.

“The application provides insufficient information to demonstrate with satisfactory confidence that the proposed use would complement the retail function of the shopping frontage and thereby not harm the vitality, viability or diversity of the area.”

Si Cunningham, chair of the Bradford Civic Society, said: “It’s a very sensible decision, and hopefully sends a clear message that the top of town demands a genuine variety of businesses if it’s to thrive as an attractive destination.

“There’s clearly a role for bars in Bradford, but many of the newer ones only trade in the evening, so we’re left with inactive shopfronts during the day. For a handsome street like North Parade, that’s simply not good enough, and a saturation of bars risks undermining the future prospects of this very cool part of our city.”

Val Summerscales from the Bradford Chamber of Trade said: “We would be behind the council position on this application. We have said for a while that the large number of bars could harm retail in that area, we’ve always said there needs to be a good mix there, but we’ve seen more and more bars opening and less retail on the street. As far as bars go, I think the area has reached its maximum capacity. It makes it difficult for other businesses, because if bars are not open during the day then you don’t get many people visiting the street. Bars that only open late afternoon or early evening do nothing for daytime trade. I think the council should have taken this stance a bit earlier.

“The bars have done a lot of work off their own back in regenerating that area, but you we are getting to the point that there are so many we may have reached saturation point.”