£3.5m boost brings taxpayer deal for landmark Odeon closer

The former Odeon cinema in Bradford
The former Odeon cinema in Bradford
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Bradford’s former Odeon cinema is a stage closer to being back in taxpayers’ hands after a cash boost for the site.

The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) yesterday agreed to provide £3.5m in funding to secure the future of the iconic building and the former police station, the Tyrls, paving the way for a deal which would see Bradford Council buy the two major city centre sites for £1 each.

It is hoped the investment of £1.3m for the former cinema and £2.2m for the old police station will allow the local authority to complete its transformation of the city centre.

Bradford Council’s executive member for the environment, Coun Andrew Thornton, welcomed the funding which he said provided a “lifeline for the Odeon building while interested groups come forward with commercially viable proposals for its future use”.

He added: “The £1.3m for the Odeon is the amount that we asked for to address essential health and safety works required to stabilise the building for a limited period while those proposals are considered.

“It has always been the policy of the council’s current leadership to try and find a sustainable future for the Odeon that can be delivered. We have invited expressions of interest for the Odeon building and people have until July 13 this year to submit them; hopefully this news will bring in more ideas and suggestions.”

The £2.2m for the Tyrls falls short of Bradford Council’s request for £2.8m and Coun Thornton said the implications of this must be considered.

He said: “As we didn’t get the full £4.1m we asked for and we have not seen the conditions of the offer we need to clarify these details and the matter will need to be discussed by the council’s executive for a decision.”

The decision marks the latest chapter in an ongoing saga of the former cinema that has lasted more than a decade. Last year following extensive negotiations Langtree Group’s controversial New Victoria Place scheme, which was due to be built on the site, was scrapped by the HCA after the developer asked for an extension of the deadline by which it was required to knock down the former cinema and award a contract for the new building.

The HCA took over the buildings in September 2011 following the Government’s decision to scrap the regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward. Last month councillors agreed to buy back the buildings on the basis of getting £4.1m funding.

The HCA said subject to final agreement from the council and the Stewardship Committee for the region, it will now work with officers in the coming weeks to begin the legal transfer of both sites.

The HCA executive director for the North East, Yorkshire and The Humber, David Curtis, said: “The transfers will give the council control of two sites integral to the transformation of the city centre and our £3.5m investment will help them to prepare the sites for development. It should also give confidence to interested groups to finalise their plans for returning the former Odeon to economic and social use that will benefit the Bradford community.

“In the past 12 months, we’ve already spent £1.3m on essential repairs and maintenance to the former Odeon, which stopped the rot and gave the building three years of life. The additional funding that we’re confirming today takes our total investment in the Odeon to more than £2.5m and we look forward to supporting the council in its efforts to create a long-term future for this much-loved building.”

A Bradford councillor for Bingley and a member of Bradford Odeon Rescue Group, John Pennington, said: “It has been a long, hard battle but the building can be saved for the people of Bradford.”

The former Odeon building has been derelict for more than 10 years during which time campaigners have fought to save it.

Bradford Council leader David Green said last month that the council would try to find a commercially viable option for the Odeon and would encourage anyone with ideas to come forward with a business plan.