IT’S A sign of a confident community and a strong economy when attention turns to protecting and enhancing fine historic buildings that had previously been left unloved and uncared for.

Which, perhaps, goes some way to explaining why efforts to regenerate much of Bradford’s beautiful Victorian heritage have been, at best, stuttering.

At the top end of the scale, some of our finest buildings have rightly enjoyed considerable care and attention; very special gems such as City Hall and the Wool Exchange have been magnificently restored, and the wonderful St George’s Hall is on its way to joining that list.

And large parts of other areas, such as Little Germany’s historically-important commercial quarter, have been brought back to life with a host of new uses.

But despite the many successes, there remains a feeling that large parts of it are being left to crumble away.

In a sense, Bradford has too much of a good thing. Walk around the city centre with your eyes above the shop fronts and you will be treated to a vast array of stone-built architectural splendour.

Bradford has a stunning range of fine Yorkshire-stone buildings: in all, the district has more than 5,800 Listed buildings with around 20 Grade I and more than 60 Grade II*-rated structures.

For just a small taste of the magnificent quality and variety available to us, spare yourself a few minutes to study the former Yorkshire Penny Bank, at the top of Manor Row; or take in the heraldic carvings and gargoyles that decorate the old Church Institute, on North Parade; or linger over the grandeur of the NatWest bank building on the corner of Hustlergate and Bank Street.

I could go on – and for quite a long time.

We live such busy lives today that many of us rarely find the time to pause and appreciate exactly what we have. And if we don’t appreciate it, then it’s unlikely we will care for it in the way that generations before us have done.

Surely, it’s an insult to their memory and, even more importantly, that of the talented architects and rigorous and skilful builders who created these masterpieces to blight them with our own lack of foresight and respect.

So it is very pleasing to see some coherent action being taken by Bradford Council to try to right some of the wrongs that have been wrought on buildings in the “top half” of the city centre, through a Townscape Heritage Scheme.

Last year, it won initial support for the project through the Heritage Lottery Fund and this week it will be submitting more detailed proposals in a bid to secure a £2 million grant.

The plan is to focus on the City Centre Conservation Area, with projects concentrated of some of the oldest and most neglected streets, such as North Parade, Rawson Place, Darley Street, Northgate, Piccadilly, Upper Piccadilly, Duke Street and James Street.

If the Council wins the financial backing, property owners in the area will be invited to apply for grants from the fund to help repair buildings or reinstate those which have been “unsympathetically” altered.

The aim is to bring empty, disused or under-utilised buildings back into use and find ways of filling their upper floors which are often neglected or used merely for storage.

That latter point is particularly important because the best way to protect fine historic buildings is to use them fully.

The city centre needs more people to use it and one of the ways to achieve that is to persuade more people to live there. There have been many schemes to persuade people to “live over the shop” but with our housing stock under such continual pressure, such opportunities must be exploited to the full.

Contrast Bradford with somewhere like York, where every square inch of space above every shop in the city centre is valued as precious living accommodation, and it’s easy to see that – if treated carefully and properly appreciated for their real historic value – the potential is enormous.

* Deserved recognition for some genuine role models

IT’S GOOD to see some Bradford faces making the shortlist in the Asian Women of Achievement Awards. There are some brilliant role models to inspire confidence in women of all cultures and backgrounds in the district and Syima Aslam, whose passion for books has put Bradford firmly on the national map through the highly-thought-of annual Literature Festival she established in 2014 with Irna Qureshi, is definitely one of them.

We wish her, and fellow local nominee portrait artist Simone Malik, the very best of luck for the awards ceremony on May 9.

* Owners of empty homes need to have consciences pricked…

…AND, while we’re talking about making the most of buildings, there are plenty of not-such-historic ones around Bradford that are crying out for redevelopment.

A Council committee heard last week there are still 4,262 district properties which have been empty for more than six months, with almost two-thirds of them unoccupied for more than a year. The Council has made some progress in tackling the issue but, with limited powers, it can barely scratch the surface.

Of course, there are often legitimate reasons for properties to be empty; they can be the subject of complicated wills, difficult to sell on or in such a poor state that repair is not economically viable, for instance. But many can be made into badly-needed homes – and that is often simply down to owners to examine their consciences and just get on with it.