Huge development planned for old HMRC site is…

Huge development planned for old HMRC site is tipped for approval

A DECISION is due this week on a huge development planned for a former tax office in the Bradford district. 

The plan – one of the biggest residential schemes proposed for the district in recent years – relates to the former HMRC site on Salts Mill Road, between Shipley and the Saltaire World Heritage Site.

Details of the planning application – submitted to Bradford Council by Artisan Real Estate – were revealed at the end of last October.

This will now go before the local authority’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee on Thursday in a report from Planning, Transportation & Highways Assistant Director, Richard Hollinson.

He has recommended that planning permission be granted for the development.

An artist’s impression of the planned development (Image: Artisan Real Estate)

This includes demolishing the current building on site, then creating 289 residential dwellings, as well as 722 square metres of flexible commercial, business and service floor space, which will provide a workspace hub and café, according to the report.

Shipley MP Philip Davies has welcomed the recommendation.

He said: “My view is, it’s currently an eyesore, the site needs to be developed and ultimately you can only really develop what people are prepared to do.

“I would very much agree with the assistant director and that Bradford Council needs to crack on and see this site developed as soon as possible.”

In November 2015, the Government announced the Shipley office of HMRC – one of the town’s biggest employers – would close, with staff moved to Leeds. Despite campaigns to keep the office in the town, it was shut and put on the market. The report discusses the effect of the development on employment.

The submitted planning statement outlined the site “is not attractive for large-scale office use” due to it not being in the city centre, or close to a motorway junction and that Covid-19 has “enormously diminished the need for large-scale office space”.

It adds: “The existing office building was marketed for sale but there was no interest in acquiring the site for its current office use.”

Artisan Real Estate has approached hotel operators and crèche providers but the developers and operators concluded there is not currently sufficient demand in the market for these uses.

The Council’s Economic Development Department reviewed the submission and confirmed that demand for large office properties, even in city centres, has diminished and in areas like Saltaire is “non-existent”.

They also indicated that the Yorkshire Water Esholt estate will be the “principal site of commercial occupiers wishing to be based in the area” once it is redeveloped – a project that will provide 100,000 square metres of employment floor space.

Mr Davies said: “In an ideal world I would want the site to be developed for employment because that’s what we need and I want as much commercial activity in Shipley as possible, so people have got jobs on their doorsteps.”

But he added that “you can’t wait forever for the ideal development” and thinks it is probably the “best you can expect from the site”, with the hope it “can get going straight away”.

The residential units will be made up of 144 houses – a single one-bed home, and the rest a mix of two-bed, three-bed and four-bed properties – and 145 apartments.

There will be a dozen three-bed penthouse flats, 11 two-bed flats of the same style, two three-bed normal apartments and the remainder are either one-bed or two-bed.

The report says that just five of the housing units will be classed as “affordable housing”, which falls below the 58 units required by a policy in the Core Strategy.

But a Viability Assessment Report was provided, and independently reviewed by the Valuation Office Agency. This confirmed that the “abnormal costs associated with developing the site” means reaching the 58-unit level is “not viable”.

The report said: “The reduced level of affordable housing provision is therefore considered to be justified having taken account of scheme viability.”

This is something Mr Davies concurs with.

He said: “Ultimately we’ve got to be pragmatic about this and the scheme has to be viable and you’ve not got to effectively die on the hill that it doesn’t provide affordable housing.”

The politician added that if the site is not developed then there is no affordable housing at all.