A GREAT deal of scepticism greeted plans to create a giant water feature in the centre of Bradford.

They were first unveiled as part of the Will Alsop Masterplan for the physical revival of the city, commissioned in 2004 by the now long-defunct Bradford Centre Regeneration.

The so-called urban regeneration company was created as a partnership between the private and public sector to kick-start a much-needed makeover which, frankly, was going nowhere fast in the hands of the Council alone.

Despite the howls of derision, it’s easy to see today how the Masterplan has influenced the city’s regeneration – not least in the “Education Quarter,” where the University and College have both expanded and there has been a surge in new student accommodation.

The Mirror Pool, albeit a refined version of the original Alsop proposals, has proved exceptionally popular and had a huge impact on bringing people into the city centre – just look at the fuss last week when it was closed for maintenance on a sunny day.

Now a considerably larger water feature – the so-called Bradford Channel – has re-emerged to remind us that Will Alsop’s vision, agree with it or not, is still a long way from completion.

It was based on the idea of opening up the former canal which ran as a spur off the Leeds-Liverpool from Shipley into a basin in the city centre. A large parcel of land, between the Shipley-Airedale Road, the bottom of Hamm Strasse and Holdsworth Street, site of the old British Gas depot, was assembled by a group of local businessmen and architects and given outline planning permission in April 2007.

The scheme included 1,800 homes, retail space, restaurants and cafes, offices, a hotel, health and leisure space, 1,800 car parking spaces and a linear park, all grouped around a new canal basin filled with five million litres of water.

Sadly, the £350 million development was mothballed in 2008 when many plans were forced back onto the shelf by the economic downturn.

There is no sign of the scheme being re-ignited in the near future which is why the area is now the subject of a planning application to turn it into a pay-and-display car park, with the applicants claiming the site is likely to stay empty for at least another seven years.

But the canal basin plan remains one of the most exciting and forward-thinking developments that Bradford has seen. It is perfectly situated on one of the last remaining large plots of flat building land in the city centre and it is built on a tried and trusted concept which has been highly successful in many other parts of the country, not least Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

If you’ve ever taken a walk round Salford Quays, now home of much of the BBC, you’ll know where I’m coming from. If the plan had been underway now, it would have created a “no-brainer” location for Channel 4 to create its own, smaller-scale version of Media City.

What’s more, it doesn’t rely on the re-opening of the canal to make it feasible. The basin is totally achievable in its own right as a water feature which will bring in visitors and office workers alike, an ideal venue for companies wanting to establish a northern base with the sort of modern, vibrant outlook that has drawn businesses to new homes near water right across the country.

I have no objection to a temporary car park on the site for a short period; cars aren’t going to be banned in the next few years and anything which makes it easier for people to spend time and money in Bradford must be welcome.

But, surely, with new confidence in the city and in the national economy, now is the time to dust off the plans and take them back to market?

It remains a brilliant vision and proposal which could be a game-changer for the city. Rather than park it indefinitely, let’s get the buzz going again and show the world Bradford can think big.

* A West Yorkshire Son Who Deserves a Special Tribute

IT’S GREAT to see plans are afoot in Otley to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Chippendale in the town.

To my mind, Chippendale was one of Yorkshire’s finest sons, an extraordinary designer and woodworker who turned furniture making into an artform. The fact so much of his outstanding work exists today (in almost all of the major stately homes in the country) and is still highly prized – one of his cabinets sold for £2.7m in 2008 – says everything.

Let’s hope the celebrations in Otley can do him justice!

* Unless you take part you can’t complain about the outcome

ELECTIONS, quite rightly, are held in secret but there are times when it would be fascinating to see exactly who voted.

A record number, 361,325, have registered to vote in the Bradford Council ballot on Thursday, the highest since the Metropolitan District was created in 1974, and it will be interesting to see whether that is reflected in the turn-out. In particular, I’d like to know how many of those who viciously, anonymously and often unreasonably attack local politicians on social media and website Comments sections as a matter of course, just because they can, actually bother to vote.

I’d urge them all to take part in the democratic process. In short, put up or shut up. We’re all bound by the choice of the majority, like it or not, but we can’t fairly complain if we don’t join in.