An empty city centre gaming arcade can be converted into a community hub run by a Bradford charity.
The Immanuel Project offers the city’s homeless breakfasts, hot drinks and services like haircuts, healthcare and clothing.
It has operated in the city since 2010, most recently from a base on Chester Street, in the West End area.
This Summer the charity submitted a planning application to convert the ground floor of a building on Westgate – the former Leisuretime arcade to day-centre use.
The application has now been approved by Bradford Council, with planning officers said the new use would “extend the range of services” in the city centre, as well as removing gaudy signage from the Conservation Area building.
The charity offers support to hundreds of people in the district each week – and has been hailed for its role in offering help to some of Bradford’s most vulnerable residents.
The plan is only for the ground floor and a small area of first floor of the building – which has area that are also used by two nightclubs, Lemon Shed and Trash.
In its application, the charity said the arcade shut last year, and that there were numerous similar facilities in the area.
Two paid staff would work from the site, as well as 30 unpaid volunteers – it added.
Although it is not listed, 29-31 Westgate is in the Bradford City Centre Conservation Area an area of extra heritage protection meaning any proposed changes undergo an extra level of scrutiny from Bradford Council.
Referring to the plan, Council Heritage officer Simon Hinchcliffe said: “The property is identified as making a positive contribution to the character of the area.
“The applicant proposes the removal of external advertising and window decals relating to the former usage. If granted this would aesthetically improve the street scene setting of this building and the conservation area.
“There will be no negative impact on the character or setting of the City Centre Conservation Area or any other heritage assets.
“The change of use would allow for an empty property to be brought back into usage.”
There had been just one objection to the plan, which claimed people using the centre “may intimidate those members of the public going about their legitimate business.”
They added: “This is likely to have a detrimental effect on these businesses and therefore the trade in this part of the city.”
They also raised highway safety concerns – claiming pedestrians would walk in the road to avoid the centre’s users, which could cause traffic accidents on the busy road.
Referring to that concern, planning officers said: “This is not considered to be a credible risk to highway safety or a robust reason for refusal.
“Westgate has a wide enough pavement to accommodate pedestrians, as well as fencing/barriers that would prevent these otherwise unlikely circumstances from occurring.”
Approving the plans, officers said: “The proposal will bring a currently vacant unit back into use.
“The unit in use as a community centre will not detract from the function of the shopping area but, on the contrary, will extend the range of services available and help to maintain and enhance it.”