It will be a very special moment for me today to officially re-open Eastbrook Hall, a striking Victorian building in the heart of Bradford.
As some of the readers of The Yorkshire Post may possibly know, I have an abiding concern about the waste of so much of this country’s rich architectural heritage and I am keen to do whatever I can to ensure that this great legacy of historic buildings is not needlessly squandered.
Indeed, this is why I created my Prince’s Regeneration Trust which is currently working on over 30 regeneration projects throughout the United Kingdom.
Eastbrook Hall in Bradford’s historic Little Germany quarter is one such project. When I visited the area in 2001, I was struck by the potential of this former theatre (and later Methodist mission), situated in a 20 acre conservation area among some 55 other listed buildings.
At the time, however, the Hall had lain empty since the 1980’s and had been gutted by fire in 1996. Many of the listed buildings were empty, unused and falling into disrepair.
Since then, Aldersgates Estates, with help from my Trust, together with English Partnerships, Bradford Council, Yorkshire Forward and the Bradford Centre Regeneration have achieved something remarkable.
Instead of a site condemned to destruction, seventy-three apartments are arranged around a new central courtyard with parking at the lower level. There are over 800 square metres of retail and commercial space over two floors. The historic façade has been restored to its former architectural glory.
As we have proved before in places such as Sowerby Bridge and Anchor Mills, in Paisley - and hope to do so again in The Weaver’s Triangle in Burnley - well-constructed historic buildings can, with a little imagination, be transformed into real assets to their local communities, offering job opportunities and a focus for regeneration schemes.
Seven years ago, Eastbrook Hall was a fire-gutted shell condemned to the history books. Today, thanks to the fantastic commitment of all those involved, and especially the courage and conviction of the developers, Aldersgate Estates, Eastbrook Hall can look forward to a bright future, together with the remarkable conservation area in which it stands.