MORE than £10m of taxpayers' money was spent on consultants for regeneration schemes in Bradford city centre – even though work failed to start on four of the city's six key projects.
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Figures obtained by the Yorkshire Post show that since 2003 a private company set up to administer new building works in the city commissioned a total of 10,599,846 in external consultants' services.
The multi-million-pound spending comes despite the fact that four of the six main priority projects have yet to see any major development work.
The company founded to handle regeneration projects, named Bradford Centre Regeneration (BCR), spent more than 2m on consultants for projects which have either stalled or have never been started.
These include the mothballed Westfield shopping centre, plans to develop the city's former Odeon cinema site, designs for a "business forest" and an ambitious scheme to create a so-called urban village in the Bradford canal basin with offices, flats and high rise towers.
Of the projects that have been started, one was to improve the city centre's streets and another is a city centre park – due for completion later this year.
The figures emerged as part of a Yorkshire Post investigation into spending on Bradford's troubled regeneration programme. The 10.6m spent on consultants was all public money, provided by Bradford Council, Yorkshire Forward and the Housing and Communities Agency.
A spokesman for Bradford Council said that spending was used to "provide specific expertise and capacity to add to the expertise available within the council, BCR and Yorkshire Forward on issues like land acquisition, land management assisting with legal and contractual documents".
However, the cost has been attacked by many of the city's politicians, and Bradford Council's new regeneration chief accused his predecessors of concentrating on ambitious eye-catching announcements and impressions rather than actual development.
Coun David Green, who took over the regeneration portfolio last May, said: "You have to ask why spend that level of money on schemes that are still waiting to be started let alone completed.
"It just goes back to a lot of our money being spent on artists' impressions and the background stuff when they have not spent their energies on delivering or getting private sector partners to deliver on the ground."
Coun Green, who now intends to raise the issue of consultancy spending at a meeting of all of the city's councillors this week, also acknowledged that the current economic climate coupled with the dissolution of Yorkshire Forward meant regeneration would be tougher to deliver. But he maintained the council was now focused on delivery rather than just plans.
But his predecessor, Coun Adrian Naylor, said that the spending supported a long-term vision for the city centre, including projects being led by private developers.
The consultancy spending included 1.8m on the city centre park, 1.6m on New Victoria Place – a plan to demolish the former Odeon cinema and create a hotel and apartments – and 55,084 on the urban village scheme named the Bradford Channel Project.
Also included was a 500,000 consultancy bill for the Westfield Shopping Centre on Broadway, a project seen as the city's flagship regeneration programme .
The centre was due to have been finished in 2008 according to initial plans and scores of properties and buildings were demolished to make way for the site in 2005, a process which cost the taxpayer 4.31m.
However, the project was beset by continual delays with retailers proving unwilling to sign up to it, leading Westfield to announce it was suspending work in 2009. The debacle has left a vast 10-acre hole in the city centre which has since been turned into an "urban garden", currently closed to the public due to flooding.
The city park project is the only one to have seen major development work or to be given a definite completion date.