A MULTI-million-pound development in the centre of Saltaire is at risk of not going ahead, according to new documents.

The £6m Community, Arts, Heritage and Future Technology Centre on the Caroline Street car park is being funded by the Shipley Towns Fund – a £25m pot of regeneration cash awarded to Shipley by the Government in late 2019.

Planning permission for the building was approved by Bradford Council in February, despite objections from hundreds of Saltaire residents.

But notes from the most recent meeting of the Shipley Towns Fund Board show that the project is facing “significant delays” and is now seen as high risk of not moving forward.

The risk of the project not happening has increased drastically since March – the report shows, and talks are now underway between Shipley College, the Government and Bradford Council to try to move things forward.

The planned centre would be operated by Shipley College, and include space for students to study T Level qualifications.

It would also act as a tourist information point, community garden space and a permanent home to the Saltaire Collection – artefacts and documents detailing the history of the village.

It is one of the flagship projects of the Towns Fund.

The Towns Fund Board were given an update on this and other projects at a meeting on Monday.

These meetings are not open to the public or press, but the agenda has been published online.

Members were given a table detailing the progress of each project, as well as a score for delivery, spend and risk.

An artist's impression of the planned centre in the heart of SaltaireAn artist's impression of the planned centre in the heart of Saltaire (Image: Shipley College)

A score of one means the project is progressing well and is within budget.

A score of five means the project is deemed a higher risk.

Referring to the Community, Arts, Heritage and Future Technology Centre, the latest table describes its delivery status as “delayed.”

It adds: “Planning permission approved, however legal issues have caused significant delays which have resulted in the project team being stood down.

“Risk profile has been increased.”

In the March meeting of the Board, shortly after the planning application was approved, the project had a risk rating of two.

At this week’s meeting members heard that that risk rating was now four – the second highest. 

The agenda goes on to explain: “Short-Form Grant Funding Agreement (GFA) was reviewed by the Legal and Financial Officers within the Council and was paused.

“Funding was required to progress the project, alongside the provision of legal and VAT advice.

“Meetings have taken place between the Council, DLUHC (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), DfE (Department for Education) and the College to resolve the key elements within the main GFA.

“This needs to be resolved in order to progress the project to the next step.”

When asked for more details about the issues facing the project, a Bradford Council spokesperson said: “Discussions are ongoing between the Council, DLUHC, the DfE and the College regarding the Grant Funding Agreement, so it’s not appropriate for us to comment further at this time.”

A spokesman for Shipley College said they were in the same position, and would not comment while discussions were ongoing.

The plans have proved hugely controversial in Saltaire, with many objecting to the scheme due to the potential impact a new building would have on the heritage of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Others objected to the loss of a car park in the centre of the village.

A petition calling for the Council to revisit the planning application has been signed by over 1,500 people.

The Towns Fund Board agenda shows that the Saltaire scheme is not the only project seen to be high risk.

The “Development Investment Fund” is a £7m scheme to redevelop a site in the town.

No details of which site has been earmarked for this work have ever been made public, but the March agenda said “The development will provide housing and ground floor commercial use on a site which is Council owned, but on a long-term lease.

“The plan is to buy back the lease from the current leaseholder and secure vacant possession, then demolish the site and hand over to the preferred developer for development.

“Both parties are keen to move forward and legal documents are now being prepared, to be signed shortly.”

However, the agenda for this week’s meeting says this scheme has a five risk rating – the highest level.

It adds: “Still at a commercially sensitive stage and further information will be provided when available.”