Bradford City Centre Design Guide

Bradford 3D image
Bradford 3D image
Bradford Architecture
Bradford Architecture
Bradford zones of Repaie and Reinvention
Bradford zones of Repaie and Reinvention
Plan from the design guide showing the city centre builing line and open spaces
Plan from the design guide showing the city centre builing line and open spaces
Project date
  • Guidance
Yorkshire and the Humber
Bradford Centre Regeneration and Bradford MBC
Associated team members
Associated documents

Early in 2005 URBED together with Landscape Projects were commissioned by Bradford Council and Bradford Centre Regeneration to produce a design guide for Bradford City Centre. This however was not your usual design guide because its prime objective was to translate the Alsop masterplan for Bradford into a form that could be adopted as planning guidance.

To do this the guide makes some important distinctions between, for example, zones of repair and zones of reinvention. In the former there are quite strict guidelines to ensure that buildings fit into the existing historic townscape. In the zones of reinvention, by contrast, there is much more freedom to build into a framework which draws on the Alsop plan.

The guide was published for consultation in January 2006 and launched at MIPIM in March 2006 as Supplementary Planning Guidance appended initially to the UDP and subsequently to the LDF.

This guide is in five parts:

An introduction in which we describe the background and purpose of the guide and the context provided by the Bradford Centre Regeneration Masterplan.

A city centre section in which we analyse the form and structure of Bradford city centre looking at its historic development, built form, land use, streets and public spaces.

An urban design framework in which we set out a structure for the guidance. We define zones of ‘repair’ and ‘reinvention’, define four neighbourhoods, introduce the concept of ‘star’ and ‘supporting cast’ buildings, street hierarchy, building lines and tall buildings policy.

An urban design code that sets out rules to guide development in the city centre covering the street network, the height and siting of buildings, design, uses and density.

A public realm design guide by Landscape Projects that describes a strategy for the public realm of the city centre and each of the neighbourhoods as a prelude to the development of a more detailed public realm handbook for the city centre.


URBED's Design Guide for Bradford was recently reviewed by Andrew Fisher, associate partner with urban and landscape firm Gillespies:

Produced by: Urbed and Landscape Projects

Scope/purpose: A draft design guide produced for general public consultation intended for adoption as a supplementary planning document for the city centre.

Andrew Fisher comments: Given my firm's involvement in the original Will Alsop city centre masterplan for Bradford, I was intrigued to view this document, which seeks to translate the 'wow' factor of the Alsop vision into a strategy that can be taken forward by the council and its partner, urban regeneration company Bradford Centre Regeneration. The success of the guide will therefore largely depend on its ability to balance the radical aspiration of the Alsop work with the historic fabric and physical realities of the city centre.

After reviewing the Alsop masterplan to set the context, the guide follows the standard approach of analysing the place today. While this covers all the usual elements, perhaps the most important outcome is the identification of "shatter zones": areas on which regeneration is to be focused. This concept is key. It allows the guide to differentiate the approach between the historic areas and locations where a more radical design response can be accommodated in line with the Alsop plan.

I like the logic and simplicity of the design framework that follows the analysis. In tying the advice to six key principles, the guidance is accessible and comprehensive. The concept of the building line - a boundary that is intended to be used to prevent inappropriate construction too close to other buildings or the street - is particularly strong and, if applied according to the guide, should begin to reinforce the sense of place in historic and new urban environments alike. At the same time, the provision for "star" buildings that will be exempt from standard design rules also allows for architectural innovation and design flexibility.

The principles in the design framework are supported by further advice through a design code and public realm guidance. There is always a battle in such documents between detail and user-friendliness, and it is this section where it has been hardest to resolve. While these elements are helpful in providing further design "rules", they are limited in their scope - particularly in the case of the public realm guidance. This is disappointing, given the emphasis in the Alsop plan on public realm interventions, and, as the document itself recognises, the guide will need to be augmented with a clearly set-out approach to detailed design.

Overall I believe the guide achieves its difficult balancing act: it takes the Alsop work and builds on it, based on a strong analysis of place.

It manages to be both conservation- and innovation-friendly, and should ensure that future development is of the required quality. But much will depend on how well the guide integrates with the completed neighbourhood frameworks for the city centre and the levels of commitment to the more detailed design work to follow.


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