WHEN it was first announced, the Forster Square Leisure development was hailed as one of the biggest regeneration projects in Bradford city centre - a scheme that would create 200 jobs and give a massive boost to the city’s leisure offer.

But five years after the plans were first revealed, the site remains empty and overgrown, with its owners only saying they are continuing to consider the site’s future.

Now the city’s Civic Society is calling for a new scheme to help bring the key piece of land to life.

The prominent site, between Lower Kirkgate and Forster Square railway station, was bought by British Land months after Royal Mail closed its operations there in 2013.

In 2015 the London-based property firm, which also owns the nearby Forster Square Retail Park, revealed its plan for the site - a development called Forster Square Leisure that would feature a six-screen cinema, eight restaurants and a gym.

The proposals would also improve links between the city centre and the retail park.

A planning application for the development was approved in April 2016, with a representative for British Land telling a planning committee the company “would very much like to be part of keeping the momentum, investment and positivity in Bradford going forward.”

The development would create 200 full time jobs, as well as employing 100 people during the construction stage.

Although the Royal Mail buildings were later demolished, there has been no work started on the development, and planning permission has since expired.

The neighbouring Broadway Shopping Centre opened The Light Cinema just a short walk from the Forster Square site in 2018, and plans for leisure businesses in Broadway, including a climbing wall and Ninja Warrior activity centre, have since been approved.

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This summer British Land released its annual report.

It gives details on some of the company’s major developments and investments, including its Canada Water Masterplan and Broadgate Tower, both in London.

However, there is no mention of Forster Square Leisure.

Bradford is only mentioned in the 232 page report - in a list of sites British Land owns, and even this is referring to Forster Square Retail Park rather than the Leisure plans.

It says that the company will focus on three areas, office-led London campuses, “a smaller, more focused retail portfolio” and a growing residential business.

The Forster Square Leisure development has also not been mentioned in any recent Bradford Council reports on city centre regeneration schemes.

In the Council’s City Centre Area Action Plan, adopted in 2017, the site is earmarked for “leisure led mixed use” - with the aim that development of the land be completed by 2020.

The Telegraph & Argus asked British Land for a comment on the site’s future considering it was not mentioned in the annual report.

A spokesperson said: “The options for the site continue to be considered”

Si Cunningham, chair of Bradford Civic Society, has called for something to be done with the site for years.

The society recently suggested the site be turned into a public green space for people to enjoy in post-lockdown Bradford.

On the lack of progress, he said: “It’s a disappointing but unsurprising situation given the way things are.

“I think we need to look to the future now, and start some positive discussions with British Land and Bradford Council about what’s best for Forster Square.

“The vast majority of people I have spoken to do not want to see an extension of the retail park there – they’d like something much smarter that symbolises the kind of city that Bradford wants to be.

“Personally, the most obvious solution is to encourage British Land and the Council to develop the site as a new green park with play areas and water features.

“Perhaps then, as Bradford becomes a more compelling cultural destination, with Bradford Live open and the possibility of City of Culture status, parts of it can be developed according to demand, whether it’s a new hotel, or whatever.

“It can’t stay fenced off and gathering litter for much longer, that’s for sure.”

Bradford Council was approached for a comment.