Ladies and Gentlemen, I spent quite a few years wondering if I would ever actually get here to see this remarkable building brought back to life! Some of you may remember I came here to Little Germany back in 2001 and this building Eastbrook Hall was a burnt out and roofless ruin, with its landmark dome very nearly collapsing. So, being an inveterate interferer and meddler I couldn't possibly stand back and do nothing and see such an important part of this remarkable area of Little Germany destroyed.
At my request, my Prince’s Regeneration Trust initiated a partnership with Aldersgate Estates and the Little Germany Urban Village Company to look at ways of how we could rescue Eastbrook Hall. Thanks to some incredibly innovative working, and a powerful alliance with English Partnerships, Bradford Centre Regeneration, City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Regen 2000 SRB Partnership and good old Yorkshire Forward, all the inevitable and sometimes huge hurdles of a major regeneration project were overcome - although I won’t say entirely effortlessly!
I particularly want to congratulate Aldersgate Estates, which has carried out the project with immense courage and conviction – and substantial capital of its own which, combined with the generous and vital public sector contribution, made this vital project a reality.
But, ladies and gentlemen, the project that we see here today represents a triumph not just of partnership and commitment, but of craftsmanship too. I was saying earlier at Sowerby Bridge that one of the main reasons why I have gone on about this business of regeneration through heritage and finding new uses for so many of our historic buildings around the countryside is because I believe we owe it fundamentally to all those marvellous people who put so much of their lives, their skill and their devotion into these buildings. In these days when perhaps we are beginning to understand the need for greater sustainability it makes a great deal more sense to keep them going and find new uses for them, instead of knocking them down and causing a huge amount of extra problems as far as embodied energy is concerned.
It was clear from the outset that a large part of the façade would have to be totally dismantled and rebuilt. In the event the re-creation of the Leeds Road frontage is probably the largest stonework project undertaken in the North of England in recent years and an outstanding example of skilled craftsmanship. I do hope, too, that this project will have helped to ensure the future retention of important craft skills with four trainees receiving training in construction through the life of the project and I was so glad to meet three of them outside earlier.
Eastbrook Hall now does look marvellous and we are able to see this splendid building rejuvenated rather like a phoenix rising from the ashes. The retention of the façade has been coupled with the development of high quality new apartments, shops and office space. I have been delighted to see today that new owners and tenants are beginning to move in and the hard work of the partnership has enabled Eastbrook Hall – returned to its former glory - to become a catalyst to bring new life to Little Germany in the very heart of Bradford.
I can only hope that this project, and this would make it really worthwhile with all the effort that has been put into it, if it could be replicated elsewhere throughout the country as a remarkable example of what can be done. There are so many other fine heritage buildings that remain still at risk in towns and cities across the country, many of them catching fire mysteriously. And if only we could bring them back to life, we could restore the heart, the soul and sense of place which is so absolutely crucial in continuing that sense of identity and belonging that so many people do respond to, to bring it back to so many urban communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, I could not be more delighted that my Regeneration Trust has been able to play some part in this rebirth of Eastbrook Hall and I can only repeat my warmest congratulations to everyone involved – and it couldn’t give me greater pleasure than to declare it open.