AN “advanced robotics centre” could now be built on a major town centre shopping street rather than at a former council depot.

On Tuesday, Bradford Council bosses will be given an update on the planned Advanced Robotics and Engineering Institute (AREI) in Keighley.

The centre, which would specialise in teaching future technologies, formed part of Bradford Council’s Levelling Up Fund bid for the Keighley constituency.

The bid, which also sought funding for improvements to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, was initially rejected by Government, but in November the bid was awarded £19.8m.

The Robotics and Engineering Institute is expected to cost £8.76m.

The initial plans were for the council to deliver the construction phase of the centre, which, when completed, would then be leased to the Luminate Education Group and Bradford University, which would run the centre at a peppercorn rent. 

A new report into the current status of the scheme shows that there have been a number of changes since the bid was first submitted.

Originally the plan was to build the centre on the council’s Stockbridge Depot on the outskirts of Keighley.

But the new report says the state-of-the-art building could now be built on the junction of Lord Street and Cavendish Street – the former site of one of the Keighley College buildings and a short distance from the planned site of a new health hub.

This site is owned by Bradford Council, and was once proposed as a new police station site, but in 2022 those plans were shelved by West Yorkshire Police and the site has remained vacant and fenced off.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The site off Cavendish StreetThe site off Cavendish Street (Image: T&A)

The report also claims that as part of the successful bid, Bradford Council needs to provide 10 per cent of the funding for the scheme.

Initially it was thought that the University of Bradford and the Luminate Education Group would help with this funding – but the report reveals that this is no longer the case.

Referring to the new site, the report says: “The original proposal was to locate the AREI on a site which currently operates as the Council’s Stockbridge Depot.

“However, the depot site was not deemed to be the ideal location, due to being on the periphery of the town.

“A revised proposal has since been considered, to potentially locate the AREI on the former Keighley College Lord Street campus site which is already cleared and could therefore bring about a cost advantages to the project.

“The potential to consider other sites in Keighley also exists.”

Referring to the extra funding needed, the report adds: “The council has been engaged in recent discussions with project partners to ascertain the extent of commitment to delivering the projects.

“In relation to the AREI, both Luminate Group and the University of Bradford has confirmed that they are not able to provide the required match funding.

“The council is also now trying hard to identify private sector sponsors who may be interested in partnering with the AREI and considering alternative delivery models.”

A section of the report referring to any legal issues that might arise from the project says: "The main beneficiaries of AREI project build is Luminate Group and Bradford University who charge fees but the risks for the delivery of the project and all associated costs will sit with the council."

Executive members at Tuesday's meeting will be advised to "agree the council continues to try to identify alternative sources of match funding and a partner to take on the construction risk of the project".

It adds: "In alignment with this, the council also continues its discussions with the Department of Levelling up surrounding the terms and conditions of the grant award."

Other schemes included in the successful Levelling Up Fun bid were a £5.3m programme of improvements to boost capacity of the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway heritage line, and an £8.1m project to help support the redevelopment of four long-empty brownfield sites in the town.

This brownfield support would "address an entrenched market failure and facilitate private sector development from businesses that are keen to grow in the area."

Work on these long empty sites could include groundworks, flood alleviation and site clearance.

The Executive meets in Bradford City Hall at 10.30am on Tuesday.