Memorandum by Aldersgate Estates Ltd (ERF
Eastbrook Hall lies within the Little Germany
Conservation area of Bradford City Centre, a unique collection
of 85 buildings constructed between 1855 and 1890, during the
peak of Bradford's wool textile industry.
Of the 55 listed buildings in the area, Eastbrook
Hall is the largest and most distinctive. It retains a strong
presence in the hearts and minds of the people of Bradford, not
only for its imposing appearance and prominent location on the
main Leeds road, but for its former use as a meeting place for
Bradford citizens, right up to the 1970's. A short architectural
description of the building is given in Appendix I.
With the decline of the city's fortunes in recent
times, so Eastbrook Hall has fallen into disuse, and is now derelict
and in a severely dilapidated condition.
In recent years, the conservation area has benefited
from the assistance of English Partnerships, who have provided
gap funding for the restoration of a selection of the area's key
buildings. Refurbishment has been undertaken mostly on a speculative
basis by property developers, and this has proved remarkably successful,
particularly in attracting commercial tenants. Aldersgate Estates
Limited have participated in the redevelopment of two such buildings,
and we are currently refurbishing a third comprising some 14,500
square feet of office space.
It is generally agreed among those involved
in Little Germany's future that the successful redevelopment of
Eastbrook Hall is crucial to consolidating the already considerable
work that has been done in the area, and to providing the confidence
for further regeneration.
Aldersgate Estates Limited have for some years
had in place proposals to restore the listed Leeds Road frontage,
part-demolish the rear and redevelop the property into a combination
of 85,000 square feet of modern-standard office accommodation
and flatted dwellings. We entered discussions in 1997 with English
Partnerships for the provision of gap funding for the redevelopment.
Office rents in Bradford sit at around £10
a square foot. This compares with nearby Leeds' £20-£22
a square foot, and explains why property is unable to be developed
to a modern standard of finish, energy-efficiency etc. without
grant assistance. The explanation for the low levels of rent is
beyond the scope of this note, but can perhaps be best explained
by the (unjustified) perception of Bradford as a low-amenity or
low-grade city, rather as Glasgow was in the 1960's. Recent disturbances
have only served to reinforce that view. Glasgow's advancement
over the past 30 years, however, provides some hope that Bradford
can be similarly rehabilitated, given a sustained and reliable
level of central government assistance and the appropriate resources
required to lift the city's image.
Whilst English Partnerships evidently recognise
the importance of redeveloping Eastbrook Hall, and remain enthusiastic
about providing gap funding to do so, we were unfortunately caught
in the EU ruling around 1998, the effect of which I understand
was to put a halt to the application of grant funding to areas
like Little Germany. I believe that funding remains available
at this time at a reduced level to that which was previously possible,
but in the case of Bradford even that seems to be difficult to
We have discovered in Bradford that it is very
difficult to obtain a pre-let for commercial developments, and
with the odd exception buildings must be developed speculatively.
A recent exception to this was the case of the Inland Revenue,
who late last year required 45,000 square feet of call centre
space in Bradford. We attempted to attract them to the Eastbrook
site, providing an attractive offer of an entirely new building
at attractive rents on the rear of the listed part of the site.
We failed to do so, and were left in no doubt that the Little
Germany area was not of serious interest as a location. This in
itself was a blow to both ourselves and to others involved in
Little Germany, as it was exactly the kind of assistance that
central government could give, not only benefiting the conservation
area, but assisting public funds, which, in the absence of such
a pre-let, will inevitably need to be dispensed to make this development
That disappointment apart, it is our experience
that buildings completed to a good standard will attract tenants
once they can be shown the finished article rather be asked to
make the mental leap of visualising a derelict building restored
to a new glory. We therefore have the confidence and the will
to redevelop the site on a speculative basis, but only if the
funding gap can be bridged.
We are of the opinion that there is now a hiatus
in the regeneration of areas such as Little Germany, leaving a
half-finished job and a good deal of frustration among the many
people and organisations who have put much effort into such projects.
We look forward with enthusiasm to this being rectified.