YP Letters: Is ‘innovation centre’ plan just an excuse to close farm?

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From: Les Brook, Victoria Road, Saltaire, Shipley.

THE proposal to build a “world class innovation centre” on Milner Field Farm (‘High-profile opposition to plans to shut Aire Valley dairy farm’, The Yorkshire Post, November 30 ) sounds too good to be true.

That’s because it is. The reality is that Titus Salt’s farm will be lost and the innovation centre is unlikely to ever see the light of day.

If Bradford gives permission to build the centre and change the use of the land, only one outcome is certain. Salt’s ‘model farm’ will close.

This land has been nurtured by the same tenant family for 104 years.

Since 2010 Hartley Property Group, the landowner and planning applicant, has been unsuccessfully challenging the next generation’s succession to the tenancy.

A successful planning application would enable notice to be given. A great prize for Hartley.

So why will the innovation centre not be built? Innovation centres are locations where new ideas, commonly generated within universities, are translated into marketable products.

Alongside a chain of directly-funded government (‘Catapult’) centres, there are around 16 such centres in the country, six in Yorkshire.

Fifteen of the 16 are in the middle of cities, close to an HE institution. None are in countryside. All are not-for-profit, and almost all depend on public funding.

The Government’s principal advisor on these centres, Dr Herrmann Hauser, accepts that none are proven: it is too early even to conduct a formal impact evaluation.

So Hauser advises caution: new centres require detailed justification.

The planning applicant says Bradford Innovation Centre’s Board believes major investment in a high quality innovation centre “must take place” and that it “will assist Bradford in attracting innovators globally”.

But detailed justification there is none. The Board has not offered the planning authority a business plan, let alone any indication of what private funds will be available, nor how public funding will be secured.

Neither does it explain how global innovators will be drawn to a project accessed by an 18th- century single track bridge, more than a mile from the nearest railway station, with a bus service that starts at 11.30am.

I could go on, but wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if Hartley simply pulled this unfunny farce of a proposal?