AMBITIOUS plans to change the face of Bradford’s beleaguered Darley Street would set a “national benchmark”, according to a Council report.

The major regeneration project involves demolishing a number of buildings on the once-thriving shopping street, including the former Marks & Spencer premises, and building a new three-storey food market and a public square in their place.

The development is expected to cost at least £21 million and councillors, who will discuss the project next week, are being asked to approve the plans.

The changes will be part of a major shake up of the city’s markets. The Oastler Centre will close, with food stalls opening in the new market and non-food stalls moving to a refurbished Kirkgate Market.

A report to councillors says: “The new food market would act as a new city centre anchor and provide an attractive and vibrant market building that should add value to the economic, social, environmental and cultural fabric of the city.

"It would aim to provide a shopping destination, offering local and regional fresh food and be a key destination for shoppers in the city centre. The proposal would set the national benchmark for a contemporary market and provide the opportunity for new entrepreneurs to operate in a flexible trading environment.”

It adds: “In order to remain relevant to the local population and traditional shoppers but also attract new customers, it is intended to create a new destination in this area of the city centre to offer alternatives to what has previously been available from the market and what is currently offered from the shopping centre within the city centre.”

There would also be an opportunity for other markets, events and community activities to make use of the new public space.

Darley Street’s demise in recent years has been set against the backdrop of national high street struggles, plus Bradford’s retail ‘focus’ shifting to The Broadway shopping centre.

“With the closure of several retail units along Darley Street, the footfall and retail presence in this part of the city centre has been much reduced,” says the report.

“This results in a negative perception of the city centre. The introduction of a consolidated market would improve the retail offer and help increase the footfall in the city centre.

"It is considered that a successful market operation here, with food sales and prepared food for consumption on the premises could act as an additional city centre attraction, which in this key location, would help regenerate this part of the city centre, increasing viability and bringing vitality to the principal shopping area.”

Some of the buildings tipped for demolition are not currently under Council control and it’s proposed that compulsory purchase powers are used.

The report says the intention is to commence with this process, but continue dialogue with the building owners. Earlier this year, London-based Andres Elizondo wrote to the Council saying he is the landlord of 8 Darley Street - one of the buildings scheduled for demolition.

He said: “I don’t see how the Council can justify demolishing a currently occupied site to improve the trading conditions for neighbouring unoccupied sites. Given the small size of the property, I believe the overall project of building a public square could be achieved without the need of flattening out this site.”

But, the report says the proposed public space would need to incorporate that particular site. It says: "In terms of the planning consideration of the loss of this unit, the new market building would significantly contribute to the regeneration of the city centre, potentially leading to greater opportunity for occupancy of other adjacent vacant units.

"This is considered to outweigh the loss of the current occupied unit within the application site.The occupiers of the current unit on the site would have the opportunity of assessing the availability of other nearby vacant units."

It says the issues raised are noted, but are not considered to raise matters which would warrant the refusal of the development. From a design and heritage perspective, the project is said to "preserve and enhance" the setting of the surrounding City Centre Conservation Area, by creating an "active and vibrant use in the heart of the city, giving appreciation of the surrounding heritage assets, enhancing their presence and better revealing the heritage assets".

In outlining the reasons why approval should be granted, the report says: "The proposals are considered to create a vibrant and attractive retail offer that would improve viability and add vibrancy to this city centre location."

The Darley Street project will be discussed at a meeting of the Regulatory and Appeals Committee at City Hall on Monday, May 20, from 10am.