ONE of the most anticipated developments in Bradford's recent history has today been granted planning permission.

Bradford Council's Regulatory and Appeals Committee unanimously gave the go-ahead to convert the former Odeon building - which has been empty for almost 20 years, into a 3,800-capacity live music venue.

And at the same meeting members approved new signage on the building, including a large digital sign on the Princes Way frontage.

The applications were submitted by Bradford Live - a group that hopes to have the new venue open late next year. It will be operated by the NEC group, which aims to hold 200 events a year there.

The committee was told that the building was not listed but was a key building in a conservation area.

But the building was described as currently being "scruffy" and "not giving a good perception of the city centre".

When it came to comments from the committee, Councillor Simon Cooke (Con, Bingley Rural) said: "I think we should just get on with it. It has gone on long enough, and I've got a lot of scars from this."

He was referring to his time in the Council's leadership - a period where the authority had planned to demolish the building and re-develop the site.

The application says the digital signage would be used to advertise the venue's events, as well as screening sporting events.

Councillor Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley), expressed some concern that screening events could lead to overcrowding in the area, which included a main road."

Lee Craven from Bradford Live said: "We won't be screening live events except for exceptional circumstances such as the Commonwealth Games, but screenings won't be part of our regular programme. It will mainly be showing adverts or clips of events in the venue."

The applications for both the live venue and the screen were then unanimously approved.

Chair David Warburton (Lab, Wyke) told Mr Craven: "We're looking forward to you getting on with it, and look forward to the opening date."

Although the planning application has just been approved, work to strip parts of the building out have been ongoing for several weeks.

Lee Craven, founding Director of Bradford Live said, “We are delighted that we can now start the work to give Bradford back a fantastic entertainment venue. It is a tremendous asset to have on board the expertise of the NEC Group on board. Together we will create a world class live event space overlooking City Park for the first time in many years. We thank the council and the people of Bradford for their unwavering support in getting us to this stage and all our financial backers, including the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Local Enterprise Partnership and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. We’re planning to open our doors in the Autumn of 2020 and are now looking forward to the excitement of opening night and beyond.”

Phil Mead, NEC Group Chairman, Arenas and Ticket Factory, said: “We see so much potential in Bradford Live and are excited that the project takes a step closer to becoming a reality following today’s positive announcement. We aim to put Bradford back on the map for live entertainment and music, as well as provide a space for communities and businesses to come together to learn, brainstorm, plan or just celebrate! This site has seen some significant artists pass through its doors in the past and we’re in the business of making that happen once more.”

The Leader of Bradford Council, Susan Hinchcliffe said, “We are delighted to see that Bradford Live has now progressed this iconic project to the next stage. The redevelopment of this building will bring new visitors to the city centre and also provide jobs and opportunities for the whole of our region.” 

The project received a £357,500 investment from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. The grant was part of the Leeds City Region Growth Deal – a £1 billion plus package of Government investment to create jobs across Leeds City Region. 

The LEP also secured £4 million for the project last year from the Government’s Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund. 

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the Leeds City Region LEP, said: “The restoration of the former Odeon cinema will be transformational, not just for this landmark building, but for the people and city of Bradford, and the wider City Region. 

“This venue, situated at the heart of the city, will become another iconic string to our City Region’s outstanding cultural bow and the positive economic benefits it promises will be welcomed by everyone.”