£40 million green energy network planned for Bradford city centre approved

How the £40m plant could look (Photo: Bradford Heat Network)
How the £40m plant could look (Photo: Bradford Heat Network)

On Friday (Sep 15) Bradford Council approved a planning application for a new energy plant to be built on a vacant plot of land off Thornton Road. The plant will use air source heat pumps to create low carbon heating that can be used in buildings across the city centre using a “district heat network” made up of underground pipes.

Councillors were told that the network could held attract businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint – and that it was the largest scheme of its kind in the UK. The development, by 1Energy, is planned for a site recently used as a car park, at the junction of Thornton Road and Listerhills Road.

The site has been designated for housing, and an application to build hundreds of flats on the site was approved earlier this year.

At a meeting of Bradford Council’s regulatory and appeals committee, members were told that if the energy centre was built, the housing development – and a planned filling station and drive through coffee shop that would accompany it, would not likely proceed.

Planning officer Carole Haworth told members that the site had long been designated for housing in the council’s City Centre Area Action Plan. Any non-residential use would have to provide a substantial public benefit for the Council to allow the large housing site to be lost.

She said officers felt the energy plant would do this, and argued it was one of the best ways to reduce the carbon footprint of city centre buildings.

She said: “This will dramatically improve air quality. Rather than setting up their own greener heating, businesses could plug into this network. This will drive developers to Bradford, as they will be able to achieve greater carbon reductions than in cities without a district heat project.”

Referring to the building’s appearance, which includes a 30 metre flue, she added: “It will be iconic in terms of the design – it has a very distinctive design.”

John Brooks, representing the energy company, said: “We’ve learned from examples around the world. The technology isn’t that new. It will, however, be the first system in the UK using air source heat pumps on this scale.

“There is a lot of interest in the Bradford scheme nationally, it could become the blueprint of how other heat networks operate in the future. This system can evolve and grow over time.”

He said 1Energy had received £20m from the Government for the network, with the rest of the cash having been secured from the company from other sources. The network will cost around £40 to 45m in total – members were told.

Referring to how other cities have embraced heat networks, he said: “Copenhagen is of a similar scale to Bradford, and their heat network has 96 per cent of buildings connected.”

He told members that if the plan was approved, construction would begin early next year. Heat would be “switched on” for the first buildings to have signed up to the network in late 2025.

Councillor Russell Brown asked: “Will it be used for educational purposes? You could have schools come and learn how it works.”

Mr Brooks said they were already in discussion with the University of Bradford about students studying the plant to learn how the technology works.

Members unanimously approved the plans.

Among the conditions of the approval are that 1Energy provides £12,750 for woodland planting at a site in Bradford to offset the loss of a small woodland on this site.

They will also provide £20,000 to develop a fish pass at Shipley Weir – a stretch of Bradford Beck. This is because the company says it will not be possible to de-culvert a section of the beck that runs through the development site, something council officers had pushed for.

After the plans were approved Jeremy Bungey, Co-Founder and Director of 1Energy, said: “The Bradford Energy Network will be a landmark project not only for Bradford, but also the UK.

“Bradford will be the country’s first major city centre to have a low-carbon heat network that utilises an air source heat pump at this scale. While the construction of the underground pipe network is already well underway, this decision will allow us to press on with the Energy Centre, which will be a statement building, designed to reflect the proud industrial heritage of the location.”

A recent report by Bradford Council revealed that the council run buildings likely to sign up to the heat network include City Hall, Britannia House, Margaret McMillan Tower, Sir Henry Mitchell House, St Georges Hall and the Alhambra Theatre.