Work has begun on the long-awaited £300 million Broadway shopping scheme as newly-appointed contractors moved on site.

Birmingham-based DSM Demolition has begun stripping the interior of existing empty buildings as a prelude to the biggest demolition programme the city has seen for decades.

The land needed for the 580,500 square feet complex has been signed over from Bradford Council to the world's biggest retail operator, Westfield.

After weeks of correspondence between lawyers representing Bradford Council and legal teams in Sydney the site has been formally taken over by the giant Australian group.

The company which has a number of other shopping developments in Britain as well as New Zealand, Canada, America and Australia, has said it regards Broadway as one of its most important schemes in a city which is undergoing radical change.

Westfield became a public company 45 years ago and has 129 shopping centres with more than 21,000 retailers and 10 million square feet of shopping space.

The project is becoming a reality after eight years on the drawing board and was taken over by Westfield last year from the former developer Staniforth.

It will include 80 shops, two department stores, 170 apartments and spaces for 1,800 cars. Debenhams and BHS have announced they will take major stores in the new development, and high street jewellers H Samuel are negotiating with Westfield over the possibility of moving in.

The scheme is expected to create a total of 3,000 jobs during its construction and when it opens.

Most of the businesses trading within the site - bordered by Hall Ings, Well Street, the new Lower Kirkgate and Charles Street - have now moved out and the remainder are due to vacate their properties next week.

Westfield will then put safety hoarding around the main site. The work will include removing existing buildings, including Central House which includes the former BHS store and the Council's housing headquarters.

Neil Maclure, Westfield development executive, said: "This is a very significant time for the city as it allows us to fully prepare the site before major construction begins next year. We have worked closely with the Council and have been impressed by their delivery of the Connecting the City infrastructure programme which allows the Broadway scheme to go ahead."

The main demolition is expected to begin early next year and Westfield says the scheme should be completed by 2008. The shopping development is being built as major regeneration takes place in the rest of the city.

Bradford Centre Regeneration - the company spearheading the renaissance of the city - is implementing part of a visionary masterplan drawn up by architect Will Alsop.