Bradford Hole To Be Landscaped

Tagged as: economic_crisis environmentalism free_spaces social_struggles
Neighbourhoods: bradford
Published by group: GroupO-no-deon!

Bowing to the inevitable, Bradford Council confirmed this morning that the hoardings around the Westfield[1] hole would be taken down soon, and the area within partly landscaped. Alas the wide-open vistas we dreamed of will still be blocked by the maroon hoarding being repositioned around the massive hole at the centre of the project, with little perspex windows through which public art may be glimpsed. This will, inevitably, come to be known as Bradford's Arts Hole.



Hole_2-thumb Hole_1-thumb

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Informed speculation has it that this was on the cards for a while but was being held back so that it could be used in the forthcoming elections to gain some kind of advantage at the ballot box. The council has been stung into action by comparisons between Bradford's reaction to the stalling of this development compared to other cities, some of whom have taken a less head-in-the-sand approach.

Naturally the local paper has the fully-spun version, starting with a reference to "until Westfield is ready to re-start it's £320 million scheme". [2]. Obviously the scheme - if pushed through - would only have caused the closure of other shops. The British Property Federation have recently reported that shop vacancies in Bradford - at 22.5% - are second only to Wolverhampton[3]. One can imagine what would have happened if the fantasy money-go-round had spun on a little longer allowing Westfield to become more than a big hole with a lot of concrete in it?

The council are persisting in the notion that the scheme has been stalled by a global down-turn rather than being another ill-omened vanity project, even though the project ground to a halt while the rest of the world was still spending money it didn't have. As we peer into the jaws of collapsing pension schemes (so the old folks aren't going to be nipping out for a frappucino) and public sector cut-backs (so the bin men won't be popping out for a new Super Dry top) and wholesale resource depletion the council's vision for the future is a population with "greater spending power" [4].

Listen guys, it's not the 1960s anymore. Read a book or two. Westfield is over.

Meanwhile, in a weak nod to the above, the press release makes reference to "outdoor theatre performances, illuminated at night by a solar-powered lighting system".Welcome though that is, the tiny energy & emissions savings that's going to provide, contrasts starkly with the carbon footprint of the massive concrete foundations already laid, lying under a thin layer of topsoil and garlanded with "grassed areas, seating and footpaths" and, of course, sculptures and artwork.

Perhaps we could have a dodo and a white elephant, locked in a doomed embrace.

Regeneration policy wonks at the council still cannot drink from the poisoned chalice of public opinion and perform the required u-turn on the Odeon[5], citing the exorbitant cost of restoring the domes (couple of million) while persisting with the unwanted and basically hilarious £24m CityPark [6], [7] (check the vid to see the kind of sappy visualisation that makes our decision makers go soft in the wallet). Did no one tell them it was grim up North. I mean, there's lovely outdoors activities aplenty in the region for the hardy souls who like the drizzle and wind - beautiful walks and bike rides to be had, parks and woodland all over the place. Why an open space in the middle? To "increase land and property values". Or, the way your correspondent reads this, to make the landless pay more to access the enclaves of the landed [8]. Result!

Disclaimer - may have strayed slightly from the entirely neutral reporting of events, in the interests of a snappy read. Apologies.