Bradford looks forward to the opening of City Park

PUBLISHED: 12:12 09 January 2012 | UPDATED: 03:49 10 February 2013

Bradford looks forward to the opening of City Park

Bradford looks forward to the opening of City Park

A new park at the heart of Bradford with at least 100 fountains is causing more than a ripple of excitement, as Jo Haywood discovers Photographs by Joan Russell

They dont do things by halves in Bradford, do they? While most cities would be happy to give their main square a quick wash-and-brush-up, they have installed the biggest manmade water feature in any UK city.
After more than a decade of false dawns, this shows tremendous chutzpah on the part of this ambitious West Yorkshire city, but its bold decision to create a startlingly modern urban park on the steps of its central city hall looks set to reap enormous dividends for years to come.

City Park, which is due to fully open this month, covers a massive 24,600 square metres (about six acres) at the heart of Bradford. It has more than 100 fountains, including a central jet capable of firing water up to 30 metres (98ft) into the air, making it the tallest fountain in any UK city.

More than 277,000 granite setts in four shades of grey chosen to make it eye-catching even when empty have been laid by hand to create a 4,000 square metre mirror pool fed by four fountains shooting geyser-style plumes 15 metres into the air, 10 fountains creating an archway of water over one leg of the central causeway and a further 45 smaller fountains rising and falling in a timed sequence.

As if that wasnt enough to please even the most fervent fountain fan, 40 low-power jets flush with the ground make for wet and wild fun in the childrens play area and a ripple generator creates gentle waves across the pool when its full.

And if all that doesnt float your boat and make you want to jump on the next bus to Bradford, nothing will. But this is not just about providing good, clean fun for visitors. City Park is a critical part of Bradfords regeneration and has been designed to bring jobs and prosperity by creating an attractive landscape for future investment.

This park is a clear statement of our belief in the future of the city, said council leader Ian Greenwood. People will say we need shops and offices and we do but City Park is a crucial part of a much grander scheme.

This is our way of showing residents and people further afield who perhaps have a jaundiced view of our city that Bradford is moving forward with a vengeance and its years of decline are well and truly over. The false dawns are behind us and a new dawn for Bradford is now well underway.

The original idea for a fiercely contemporary urban park emerged in 2003 as part of the city centre masterplan. The council wanted to recognise the fact that Bradford sits in a bowl created by numerous underground becks and streams with an ambitious water feature but those ambitions looked like being thwarted until a 250,000 grant was secured from the National Lotterys Living Landmarks Fund in 2005.

That money really kickstarted the whole process and convinced people it was deliverable, said Shelagh ONeill, City Park project manager, who admits now that even she couldnt fully comprehend the scale of the task the city took on.

I studied the artists impressions, but I found it difficult to imagine how the finished park would feel. I walk round it now and am amazed at what weve achieved. Its a world class public realm, on a par with the best spaces in Europes best cities. Its an incredible achievement for Bradford and a key lesson in bold decision-making.

Ian Greenwood admits he was sceptical when that bold decision to press ahead with City Park in straitened economic times was made, but is now thrilled at the golden opportunity for growth it offers.

When the park scheme was first mooted, people were worried that we had made promises in the past that did not come to fruition, he said. People were rightly sceptical and, to be honest, I had my fair share of reservations too. I wondered whether we could actually pull this off. But we have, and then some.

About 80 per cent of the engineering work needed to pull off City Park was underground, leading many Bradford residents to assume nothing was happening because they couldnt see any day-to-day progress. But now, as the barriers finally come down and the fountains are switched on, they are able to see their city in a whole new light. But do they like what they see?

The reaction so far from people has been incredibly positive, said David Green, Bradford City Councils executive member for regeneration. And when everyone sees the full magnitude of the park I know we will be able to convert even the most fervent doubters.

City Park will bring great benefits to Bradford as it sends out a clear message that this is a forward-thinking progressive city primed for inward investment.

What do you think of Bradfords new City Park? Let us know your thoughts and opinions by emailing, tweeting @Yorkshire_LIFE or writing to Yorkshire Life, PO Box 163 Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 9AG.

Getting there: Bradfords motorway, the M606, brings you within 1.5 miles of the city centre and links with the M1, A1 and M6 via the M62. First Bradford is the main local bus operator on 01274 734833 or The city is served by two central train stations: Bradford Interchange and Bradford Forster Square which connect with intercity and local services throughout the district. For local rail inquiries, phone 0113 245 7676.

There are numerous car parks in the city centre, many with facilities available for telephone payment. To find out more, phone 01274 434300 between 9am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Where to visit: Theres the National Media Museum and IMAX; the famous Bradford Alhambra theatre; year-round ice skating; Bradford 1 Gallery; Cartwright Hall; Bradford Industrial Museum; Cliffe Castle, Bolling Hall, Lister Park; and now, of course, the incredible City Park.

For more videos on Bradford City Park - visit their Youtube Channel

The print version of this article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Yorkshire Life

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