The developer behind the axed project to demolish the Bradford Odeon said it would “inevitably” have breached a planning agreement it was asked to sign without more time to market the scheme.
Langtree Group’s New Victoria Place scheme was scrapped by the building’s owner, the Homes and Communities Agency (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.
Chief executive John Downes said market conditions would not permit the multi-use development to be delivered without any interest being generated first.
“We had outlined our marketing plan to the HCA to attract new businesses to the city with the prospect of the new offices being delivered,” he said.
“That committed us to several hundred thousand pounds of investment. In this market that was absolutely key to getting the project off the ground.”
But obligations contained within a development agreement the group signed back in 2007 were “not practical or even available to us to comply with,” he said.
Planning permission was agreed in 2009 for New Victoria Place, which included a hotel, offices and restaurants, subject to a section 106 agreement between the owners, developers and Bradford Council.
The Homes and Communities Agency, which took over the building’s ownership from Yorkshire Forward a year ago, signed the agreement three months ago but was still waiting for Langtree’s signature.
The document, once passed by Bradford Council, would have sealed the planning permission for the development as well as conservation area consent to demolish the Odeon. But it would also have triggered an eight-month period in which Langtree would have had to use “reasonable endeavours” to demolish the existing building and let a contract for New Victoria Place.
Mr Downes said: “It is totally inconceivable that we could fit the whole cycle of marketing, attracting interest and then awarding a new building contract within the eight month period, which in turn would have meant that we’d be demolishing the building without its redevelopment having been secured.
“This is very much against what the politicians and people of Bradford told us they wanted to happen.”
The section 106 agreement stipulated that no demolition could take place until the redevelopment solution had been secured.
The HCA has said allowing the developer more time would change the terms of the development agreement and “perpetuate uncertainty” over the building’s future.
The Odeon has lain derelict for more than 10 years and the 1930s building and its twin towers are now shrink-wrapped in plastic sheeting. There has been considerable opposition to the historic building’s demolition and campaigners welcomed the reprieve when it was announced on Thursday.
The centre of Bradford has been blighted by failed regeneration projects in recent years, with work on a proposed Westfield shopping mall yet to begin, despite bulldozers clearing the site nearly a decade ago.
Respect MP George Galloway, whose pledge to save the Odeon was a key campaign platform for the Bradford West by-election, tabled an early day motion in the Commons on Thursday calling for Government to step in to develop a strategy for investment in the Odeon and other regeneration projects across the city.
He has also written to the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles demanding a public inquiry into the city’s “regeneration debacle”.