BRADFORD Council has been urged to hold a referendum on whether a key site in Keighley becomes a new £3.4 million health hub, or remains a town centre green space.

Plans for the former Keighley College site on North Street have divided opinion in the town, and the issue was debated at a meeting of Bradford Council on Tuesday.

For years the site has been earmarked as a potential "public service hub" that would bring together numerous different services.

More details of the plans have recently been announced - the £3.4m development would include GP services, physiotherapy, district nursing, midwifery, health visiting, diabetes support, stroke rehabilitation classes, podiatry, occupational therapy and a pharmacy.

It will be funded as part of the £33m Keighley Towns fund grant from Government.

But in the past year there has been a growing call for the plan for the site to be scrapped, and the land instead to become a public green space.

New campaign to keep Keighley's 'green space'

The site was landscaped after the former Keighley College building was demolished to make way for the hub, and has become popular with residents.

A petition was signed by almost 2,000 people - enough to trigger a debate at Tuesday's meeting - held in the Alhambra Theatre.

Laura Kelly, a business owner in Keighley, spoke on behalf of the petitioners at the meeting. She said petitioners wanted the site - on one of the main routes through Keighley town centre, to remain an urban green space, with more trees to be planted. She said it would "offer a warm welcome to visitors to our town."

Referring to the petition's popularity, she said: "This is just the beginning of our campaign - momentum will build."

She said the town was on the decline, that there were numerous empty buildings and that "footfall is at an all time low." She added: "That could be helped with this amenity green space."

Mrs Kelly told the meeting that petitioners felt there were many empty buildings or brownfield sites in Keighley that could be used for the health hub.

She added: "There should be a local referendum to see what residents would like on the site. Construction of a new building on this green space would have disastrous consequences for the town."

Recently elected Councillor Mohammed Nazam (Cons, Keighley Central) spoke in support of the petitioners, saying: "I welcome a new health and wellbeing centre in the town, just not in this site. I urge the council to reconsider their decision to build on the green space."

Keighley town centre site to be redeveloped with 34 new employment units

Councillor Alex Ross Shaw, Executive for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, pointed out the site had been identified for redevelopment for many years, and that it seen as the "best location for bringing a number of different services under one roof."

It would bring 200 jobs to the town, with a quarter of these being newly created jobs.

He added: "I understand the the desire of the petitioners to move the centre anywhere else, but there is nowhere else in Keighley that will deliver the same benefits of this site.

"People care dearly about a place and still have different ideas about the right way forward."

A further discussion on the site's future will now be held at a meeting of the Council's Executive.

Earlier this week Brendan Brown – chief executive of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust – spoke on behalf of the health partners involved in the initiative, says the centre would bring a number of services and medical professionals under one roof.

He said: "We are delighted to be progressing with this much-needed facility.

"By concentrating a number of health services into a single new town-centre facility, we are making it more accessible and easier for our communities to use. This is part of our wider way of working that falls under our Act as One health and care partnership for Bradford District and Craven.

"We recognise the need for developing local services for local people – this is a real demonstration of our partnership’s commitment to the people and communities of Keighley."

And before Tuesday's meeting the six Labour Councillors representing Keighley issued a statement supporting the plans.

Councillors Mohsin Hussain (Keighley Central), Julie Lintern and Paul Godwin (Keighley West) and Malcolm Slater, Doreen Lee and Caroline Firth (Keighley East) – said the initiative would provide a boost for the town and help people accessing health services.

They said: "This development would make it so much easier and more pleasant for people across the town to get to a range of appointments on offer. We also need it because our town – like many others – has suffered from online shopping, retail companies going into administration and branches closing. The wellbeing centre would bring around 200 well-paid jobs to the centre of town, plus people using its services – and they will spend money in our shops, bars and restaurants.

"That said, we share the passion of the people of Keighley for green spaces and we are pushing for more green space – but it has to be in the right place. A site that is surrounded by roads on all four sides is not somewhere that is relaxing, safe, or a suitable place for quiet contemplation or a picnic.

"To maximise the health and economic benefits to Keighley, the best location for the health and wellbeing centre is the former college site. However, we will continue to press the portfolio holder and officers for green space in the town centre, and we will continue to request that the wellbeing centre design incorporates some green space and landscaping."