Verdict on justice quarter awaited

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REGENERATION bosses are set to discover whether a bid for £35m to kickstart plans to create “a justice quarter and business forest” in Bradford city centre have been given the go-ahead.

A partnership between Bradford Council and businesses in the city has applied for money from the Regional Growth Fund, which was created to boost the private sector in areas which have been dependent on state funding.

If successful the funding will pay for the demolition of the magistrates’ court and former police station in Bradford city centre and construction of a new court and office block.

The bid has been made by the City Centre Delivery Group which includes Bradford Council and key businesses from the district such as Morrisons, Pace, Provident Financial and Yorkshire Building Society.

Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget this week confirmed that decisions on who will receive the first round of Regional Growth Fund cash will be announced shortly. The fund is said to be massively oversubscribed.

However, Bradford East MP David Ward said that even if the city missed out this time it would submit another bid when a new round of funding applications are invited next month.

Today the Yorkshire Post reveals how millions of pounds of public money has been spent on consultants for key schemes in Bradford – many of which are still yet to start.

However, Mr Ward has predicted that the magistrates’ court move and city park development will be a catalyst for other regeneration schemes in the city centre.

Mr Ward, who was elected for the Liberal Democrats last May, said: “We can start to see these projects as dominoes being lined up. We are working very hard to make things happen and I can say that I want to be judged over five years on whether I can work with partners to get things moving in the city centre.”

He also highlighted the tax-break enterprise zones announced in the Budget as a way to boost Bradford’s regeneration.

The plan to move Bradford Magistrates’ Court was originally set to be funded by Yorkshire Forward but this was placed on hold when the Government announced that regional development agencies were to be abolished from next year.

Now regeneration chiefs hope that money from the Regional Growth Fund can cover the majority of the cost of the scheme. Bradford Council has also set aside £15m for the project.

Under the plans – which were highlighted as one of the “big six” priority schemes four years ago- the current Bradford Magistrates’ Court would be knocked down and moved to Exchange Court next to the city’s crown court – creating “ a justice quarter”.

The funding would also cover plans to build new office blocks at Exchange Court. The magistrates’ court and former Bradford Central police station building – which is now largely empty – would then be demolished to make way for further office development known as the “Business Forest” next to the new city park.

Mike Cowlam, Bradford Council’s assistant director of economic development said that creating the park would add to the land and rental value of the adjacent site. However the actual building work on the Business Forest would not be covered by the current bid for £35m and would need a private developer to take it forward.

Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post show that more than £1.6m has been spent on consultants for work on the magistrates’ court move.

Last month we revealed that £10.6m has gone on consultants commissioned to work on city-centre projects in Bradford. Now new figures show exactly how this cash has been spent.

Plans for a shopping centre have left Bradford with a giant hole at one of the gateways to the city centre for the past five years. Almost £20m of public money has been spent demolishing shops and preparing the site for a new retail development at Broadway.

However developer Westfield has said it will not start work until it has enough tenants signed up to be part of the scheme.

It has now emerged that almost £500,000 of public money has been spent on quantity surveyors, building consultants and legal advice relating to the development.

A further £24,000 legal bill was run up for Bradford Channel scheme – a plan to develop an urban village around a canal basin.