Council shelves City Hall plans

Architects 'unhappy' at lack of public debate Amy Binns DRAMATIC plans to replace Bradford City Hall's historic council chamber with a winter gardens, and to build a glass replacement in Centenary Square have been quietly shelved by the council.

Leeds-based architects Bauman Lyons, whose designs won a major national competition, said they were unhappy and disappointed at the lack of public debate on the issue by Bradford Council.

But Coun Simon Cooke, executive member for regeneration, said public feeling had been so strongly against the proposals there seemed little point carrying out expensive consultations.

The plans were the result of the Designs on Democracy competition, organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research.

They were meant to make traditional but forbidding town halls more accessible to the public, and to get more people involved in local politics.

Bauman Lyons, which also designed Bradford's award-winning wind-powered bus shelters and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park's Longsight Gallery, beat stiff competition to win, in January 2003.

The firm created two sets of plans, one of which meant removing the core of the building, including the Victorian council chamber, to create a winter garden courtyard.

The alternative was to keep the council chamber as a living museum, along with the former magistrates' court, which is rarely open to the public, and build a glass civic pavilion and council chamber linked to the front entrance in Centenary Square.

Irena Bauman, director of Bauman Lyons, said it had not expected the plans to be used as stood, but were disappointed at the council's lack of response.

She said: "Our proposals were quite bold and we were prepared for major consultation. We did think some kind of relationship would develop, but we were never congratulated or invited to discuss it. After many attempts to find out what was happening, we were just told that they would not do it."

Mrs Bauman said the firm had spent considerably more developing the plans than the 10,000 prize money. She said: "If you do competitions you do take a risk, but we wish there had been some discussion.

"I don't want to be too hard on them because I know Bradford has a lot of problems. A lot of people would prefer to see money spent on more tangible things.

"They joined the competition when they were still bidding for Capital of Culture and obviously that fell through, but we would have liked to have been consulted when they commissioned the masterplan."

The Bradford city centre masterplan, unveiled in October, features an artificial lake in Centenary Square leading to wetlands in Thornton Road. It is now under consultation.

Coun Cooke said there had been so little enthusiasm for the Bauman Lyons plans the council had decided not to press ahead with the intended extensive consultation.

He said: "I liked the plans but they were really a step too far for the people of Bradford. We recognise we need to open up the City Hall, but we don't want to be messing about with it too much. "An expensive consultation didn't seem necessary"

Coun Cooke said the council would be looking at how public access could be improved.