From Keighley News, March 8th, 2018
Written by Alistair Shand
AN ORGANISED campaign has been launched to retain Keighley's newly-created 'green space' and transform it into a town park. Grassed areas, flowerbeds, benches and even a fountain would feature in the scheme, on the former college site. The initiative is being spearheaded by the town's Rotary club, which is planning a public meeting to garner the views of residents and businesses.
But the move comes as it was revealed this week by MP John Grogan that he understands "detailed and advanced discussions" are taking place over siting a new police station at the spot, also incorporating the adjacent Cavendish Street plot once the second derelict ex-college building is demolished.
"Getting the police station in the centre of town rather than on the outskirts is a big priority given the problems of crime," he said.
"Bearing in mind the growing strength of the campaign for green space in the town centre, is it not possible to be ambitious with the design and combine some activity on the site – such as the new police station – with a green area, keeping open the view of the hills behind?"
Mr Grogan is organising a seminar in June focussing on Keighley's economic future, to which Bradford Council – which manages the ex-college site – and the developers behind the long-awaited East Parade retail scheme will be invited.
Since the bulldozing of the old North Street college building, there has been a growing clamour from townspeople for the open area to be retained and the council to ditch its plans for a 'public sector hub' on the site.
Chris Pickles, president of Keighley Rotary Club, questioned the need for a hub and said the town "needed a space of its own".
"Bradford spent a great deal of money on the City Park – why shouldn't Keighley have its own town park?" he said.
"It is in a perfect location and opens out onto Town Hall Square, also allowing us to admire the architecture of adjacent buildings such as the library.
"We have all read about the plans to close 15 offices around Keighley and spend a large sum of money building the new 'hub' to replace these established premises.
"In addition, the proposal to demolish the remaining former college building – at great further expense – seems superfluous to say the least.
"If the council is determined to have all departments under one roof, why not spend the money renovating this building – which does, after all, have the benefit of a central location?
"A lot has been spoken about 'commercial' opportunity for these two sites and the regeneration of Keighley through new office or other commercial buildings.
"Bradford and Keighley councillors must ask themselves, how likely is that in the current climate?
"With a large derelict space already off East Parade and the looming closure of Marks and Spencer, it would appear to the jaundiced eye that Keighley is in an increasing downward spiral with no hope of revival.
"As someone who is Keighley born and bred, I find this a depressing scenario. To raise spirits, we badly need a space of our own."
He said the club was already heavily involved in community life and was prepared to take a leading role over the issue.
"Keighley receives many visitors – the Worth Valley Railway and the Brontes being two of the main attractions," he added.
"Let us make the town look more attractive to these visitors, and maybe regeneration will follow.
"It is time some pride was injected back into Keighley – for too long we have 'suffered' as an underdog of Bradford.
"This used to be a proud and prosperous place. Let us embark on a project to once again make it a town where people can live with pride and contentment. It is time to fight back.
"I feel sure the residents and businesses of Keighley will support this campaign."
But Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council's executive member for regeneration, planning and transport, said it was of "vital importance" that the public sector hub project was pursued.
"It will place hundreds of jobs at the heart of Keighley town centre," he added.
"Green spaces play an important part in any town or city centre and Keighley has some beautiful parks and green space close to its centre, including Devonshire Park, Victoria Park and Church Green as well as Cliffe Castle Park which was recently re-opened after its £4.5 million refurbishment.
"We've been working with the Business Improvement District and Dementia Friendly Keighley initiative to create a sensory garden near the church and Keighley Market. We'd be happy to involve the Rotary club in these discussions to make sure it's a green space all of Keighley can be proud of.
"However, for town centres to thrive they need people working there to support the shops, restaurants and other businesses and that's what we're eager to deliver through the public sector hub."
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, wouldn't comment on any force interest in that particular plot, adding: "We are looking for a potential site for a police station in the centre of Keighley that is fit for purpose, provides value for money and delivers more visible policing for our communities. I am hoping to make a decision on the location soon in consultation with our partners."