Leaders of two West Yorkshire councils have hit back at criticism over the cost of a major Bradford scheme – with one arguing “Bradford is worth it.”
Work on a £43 million project that will see the pedestrianisation of some city centre streets in Bradford, including Hall Ings, is expected to begin in June.
The work will also see a new park created on Hall Ings, new pedestrian and cycling facilities, a series of new “bus hubs” around the centre and public art.
It is being funded through the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund – a pot of cash to improve infrastructure in major UK cities.
When the project was discussed at a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority last month, Councillor Stewart Golton, Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Leeds, raised concerns that the costly project seemed to be more about making Bradford attractive than improving traffic in the centre.
First announced in March 2020, the project will also see the Jacob’s Well roundabout removed, Market Street and Bank Street pedestrianised and a new public transport route created on Well Street, to the rear of Broadway.
At the last WYCA meeting members voted to progress the scheme to the next stage – developing a business case so work can progress.
Projects that receive Government funding are given a “Benefit Cost Ratio” – a measure of how much value for money a scheme will provide.
If a scheme is rated higher than one it means that for every pound spent a benefit higher than one pound will be generated.
The Bradford scheme has been given a BCR of 2.5 – which the Government classes as “high value for money.”
After hearing about the plans Cllr Golton referred to similar works that have taken place in Leeds in recent years. He said: “I’ve got considerable experience of transport related schemes that have happened in Leeds city centre, and looking at this scheme, the same seems to be happening in Bradford.
“A lot of money that is supposed to be about- improving transport is being used to make pavements and buildings in Bradford look prettier.
“I know this is Bradford’s decision, but the investment in Leeds hasn’t helped transport around the city – I hate to see another authority make the same mistake.”
He also questioned the Benefit Cost Ratio.
Councillor James Lewis, Labour Leader of Leeds Council, replied by saying: “I don’t think I’ve ever heard so much rubbish from Cllr Golton, and there is a very high standard that has been set.
“The work in Leeds has led to significant transport benefits. People walk on pavements – having better pavements to walk on is a transport benefit.
“Clearly there will be disruption when work is going on. The luxury of being in opposition is that you can complain when you blink and work hasn’t been completed immediately. That’s not how it works in the real world.
“The true sign of a scheme’s success is that when it happens do people want it returned to the way it was?
“I don’t get people coming to me saying they want three lanes of traffic to be coming down Briggate again. They don’t ask for the traffic to return to the space outside the Corn Exchange.”
He said work to improve public realm in Leeds had led to more private investment in the city.
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin said: “Often there is a sense we should wear a hair shirt and shouldn’t have nice things. I think having aspirations for our city centres is a good thing.
“We want city centres like in Europe, that are pleasurable to move about in. We want to get people back in our centres not just for work or shopping, but because it is an enjoyable experience.”
Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “I think Bradford is worth it Councillor Golton.
“The Benefit Cost Ratio is set by the Government, and it says that this is a very good scheme from an investment point of view.
“We need more green spaces. We are going to be the National City of Culture, and this is part of us preparing for that.”
The work is expected to be completed by early 2025.
WHAT WILL THE WORK INCLUDE?
- Change the dual carriageway on Hall Ings to single carriageway between Bank Street and Vicar Lane, with the park continuing on the southern side
- Remove the existing roundabout and subways at Jacobs Well and replace with a surface level crossing with a wide central reservation
- Close Market Street, Bank Street, Broadway, and Bridge Street to traffic and deliver improvements including paving, planting, seating, and artwork
- Install power points on Market Street for pop-up markets and events
- Close Little Horton Lane at the junction with Princes Way and create a small park and new public space
- Divert bus routes onto a new bus corridor circulating the city centre with bus priority measures. This will include a new bus and taxi only link between Bradford Interchange and Forster Square stations along Vicar Lane and Well Street, and a bus lane southbound on Princes Way (between Sunbridge Road and Croft Street gyratory)
- Create new bus hubs at key locations on the new bus corridor
- Install new and upgraded pedestrian and cycle crossings
- Install new segregated cycle tracks, linking the city centre core to existing and planned cycleways outside the city centre
- Deliver junction improvements around the city centre perimeter to improve facilities for pedestrians, cyclists, and bus users
- Create new and relocated spaces for disabled parking and taxis