Bradford's finest minds are proposing to demolish this landmark 170+ year old building in order to - wait for it - widen the road junction.
As if that was not a bad enough idea in principle, the Council does not know what the new junction will look like, or assessed its environmental, social or economic impacts, or consulted with local people.
I have therefore written to all the councillors on the panel urging them to call a halt to this madness, divert the bulldozers and send the planners back to their drawing boards before it is too late.
My email reads as follows:
I am writing to ask for your help in ensuring that the planning panel meeting on Wednesday rejects the Council’s premature application to demolish the Branch Hotel.
The report submitted by the Design and Conservation Officer is very clear. He states that demolishing the Branch without any immediate indication of what will take its place will neither enhance nor better reveal the significance of the World Heritage Site. This is a breach of Paragraph 137 of the Planning Practice Guidance of the NPPF, which states that local planning authorities like ours should look for opportunities for new developments that enhance or better reveal the significance of World Heritage Sites like Saltaire.
Leaving the site cleared and levelled, as is proposed, (a) will worsen the appearance of the site in the immediate future and possibly for several years; and (b) the Council has not clarified how any subsequent junction enlargement will make a positive difference as far as the World Heritage Site is concerned. The supporting arguments submitted as part of this application are no more than aspirational, are not evidenced, and are therefore not sufficiently robust to justify the loss of a building of this sort.
In addition, the demolition will breach a key priority of the NPPF, namely to ensure that planning for places protects and enhances the built and historic environment. If the Branch is not part of our historic built environment in Shipley, given the fact that it is one of the oldest buildings in the town located on one of the key junctions and important approaches to Shipley, I don’t know what is.
Yet we are proposing to demolish this historic landmark simply to create a larger road junction that has not yet been designed and whose economic and environmental impacts have neither been assessed nor publicly consulted on.
The Council already owns the site and the building. The Council therefore has the opportunity to properly assessed all the options for an improved junction and their impacts BEFORE seeking premature consent to destroy one of the oldest buildings in our community. There is no need to rush into this matter and I hope that you will press the pause button before it is too late by rejecting this specific application outright.
I agree with the officer report in so far as it correctly states that “a balanced judgement will be required having regard to any harm or loss and the significance of the heritage asset…harm should also be weighed against the potential public benefits of the proposal”. Fair enough.
But the problem is that the Council has NOT demonstrated in any detail or with any supporting evidence that a bigger junction will actually deliver the kind of public benefits (economic, environmental, social) that might outweigh the loss of this landmark building.
I urge you all, please, to resist promises of ‘jam tomorrow’ from the highways team and focus on where we are right now. We have a 170+ year old landmark building in the midst of our community that is a heritage asset which might be saved and regenerated in some form (perhaps as part of a housing development, for example). The weight of comments submitted shows overwhelming local public support to retain the building for some future use. But that opportunity will be lost forever if you give the green light to the Council’s bulldozers.
A few years ago, we lost the old post office building in central Shipley (now a private car park). The nearby Oddfellows Arms – dating back to 1840 - is also under threat of demolition. Historic Shipley is gradually being torn down bit by bit and I hope that Wednesday’s meeting will call a halt to this mayhem.
Cllr Kevin WarnesGreen Party Councillor for Shipley