CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a new community, heritage and education building in the heart of Saltaire have been approved.

The £6m Community, Arts, Heritage and Future Technology Centre will be built on a car park off Victoria Road, with the funding coming from the Government’s Shipley Town’s Fund.

The building will include classrooms to be used by Shipley College for science and engineering students, new public toilets, exhibition space, and a community classroom, as well as a public garden.

It will also be the new home of the Saltaire Collection, made up of 6,000 artefacts detailing the history of the village.

The plans went before Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee on Thursday, when members heard the scheme had proved unpopular with many in Saltaire – which is a designated World Heritage Site.

The site of the proposed development was once home to a Sunday School which was one of the most important buildings in Titus Salt’s model village.

The school was demolished to make way for a car park in the 1970s.

It was the loss of this 30-space car park that led to many of the objections, and over 160 people wrote to the Council calling for the plan to be refused.

The village’s World Heritage Site status was awarded by UNESCO. When planners were asked what UNESCO had to say about this application, they said officers had been unable to contact anyone from UNESCO, with multiple calls going unanswered and emails to the national body receiving no response.

Members were told that Historic England had supported the plans, saying using the site for education once again would align with the ethos of Titus Salt’s vision for the village.

The committee heard that the plans would lead to the loss of 30 parking spaces, but highways officers felt that any displaced traffic could be accommodated in other village car parks, or on street.

One of the objectors, Philip Pattison, spoke at the meeting, saying: “Although this is a well intentioned attempt to improve the village, it is not needed.

“I find it surprising this is being contemplated at this site when there are so many empty units in the city that need regenerating.”

He pointed out neighbouring Shipley has numerous large empty units, adding: “It is a run down area that seems to be getting worse.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: An artist's impression of the planned centre in SaltaireAn artist's impression of the planned centre in Saltaire (Image: Shipley College)

“Ask anyone in Bradford which area needs regenerating the most and they won’t say Saltaire.

“It is a thriving tourist hot spot, visitors throng here. We don’t need a new visitor’s centre or more college space.”

Another objector, Jim Greenhalf, suggested the fact that funding had been awarded to the development before plans had been drawn up and approved suggested it was a “fait accompli.” He added: “You have to feel the weight behind approving this is going to be very strong.

“How are cars going to be absorbed into the surrounding streets when the car park goes away?”

Councillor Matt Edwards (Green, Tong) said: “I lived in Saltaire for a long time, and I care very passionately about the village, which is one of the most important areas of our district.

“The building that originally stood there was one that would have made Saltaire important and great.

“It was replaced with a car park, which doesn’t add anything to the village.

“There were over 100 objections, but there are over 800 properties in Saltaire, so to say there is an overwhelming opposition to this isn’t my interpretation of the situation.”

Councillor Russell Brown (Cons, Worth Valley) said: “It is an attractive design, it is well presented, but I’m more interested in the reasoning behind it. It is promoting STEM and STEAM, and I’m entirely in favour of this type of thing.”

But he questioned the “community, arts and heritage” site of the development.

In response Maggie Smith, of the Saltaire Collection, said the collection of 6,000 items began in the 1980s, and documents the “social history” of the village.

The collection is currently housed in Shipley College, and is not easily viewable by the public. She said: “Moving into this building will enable us to be open to the public on weekends and all year round.

“Saltaire must be the only World Heritage Site without a heritage centre. The whole village is like a museum, but it can be very difficult for visitors to access the knowledge and understanding of events in the village’s history.”

She said the new location would also allow the collection to apply for museum status.

The committee unanimously approved the plans.