A new robotics training centre could be built in the city centre


On Tuesday, Bradford Council officials will receive an update on the planned Advanced Robotics and Engineering Institute (AREI) in Keighley.

The centre, which will specialise in teaching future technologies, was part of Bradford City Council's bid for a Levelling Up Fund for the Keighley constituency.

The bid, which also requested funds for improvements to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, was initially rejected by the government but was awarded a £19.8 million contract in November.

The cost of the Robotics and Engineering Institute is expected to be £8.76 million.

The original plan was for the city council to undertake the construction phase of the centre and, once completed, to lease the centre to Luminate Education Group and Bradford University, who would operate the centre for a token rent.

A new report on the current status of the program shows that there have been a number of changes since the initial bid was submitted.

The centre was originally planned to be built on the council's Stockbridge Depot on the outskirts of Keighley.

But the new report says the state-of-the-art building could now be built at the junction of Lord Street and Cavendish Street – the former site of one of Keighley College's buildings and very close to the planned site of a new health centre.

This site is owned by Bradford City Council and was once proposed as the site for a new police station. However, in 2022, these plans were put on hold by West Yorkshire Police and the site remained undeveloped and fenced off.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Cavendish Street locationThe location on Cavendish Street (Image: Newsquest)

The report also claims that if the bid is successful, Bradford City Council will have to provide 10 percent of the funding for the project.

It was originally thought that the University of Bradford and Luminate Education Group would help with this funding – but the report shows that this is no longer the case.

Regarding the new site, the report states: “The original proposal was to locate the AREI on a site currently used as the council’s Stockbridge Depot.

“However, the depot site was not the optimal location due to its peripheral location.

“A revised proposal has since been considered to potentially locate the AREI on the former Keighley College campus site in Lord Street, which has already been cleared and could therefore provide cost benefits for the project.

“There is also the possibility of considering other sites in Keighley.”

Regarding the additional resources needed, the report goes on to say: ‘The Council has recently held discussions with project partners to assess the level of commitment to implementing the projects.

“Regarding AREI, both the Luminate Group and the University of Bradford have confirmed that they are unable to provide the required co-funding.

“The Council is also currently actively engaging with private sector sponsors who may be interested in partnering with AREI and considering alternative delivery models.”

A section of the report relating to any legal issues that may arise from the project states: “The main beneficiaries of the AREI project are the Luminate Group and Bradford University, who will collect fees, but the risks of implementing the project and all associated costs will rest with the council.”

Board members will be advised at Tuesday's meeting to “agree that the council will continue to seek alternative sources of appropriate funding and to find a partner to assume the construction risk of the project.”

It continues: “In this context, the Council is also continuing its discussions with the Department of Levelling Up on the terms and conditions of the grant award.”

Other schemes included in Levelling Up Fun's successful bid included a £5.3 million improvement programme to increase capacity on the historic Keighley and Worth Valley Railway line and an £8.1 million project to support the redevelopment of four long-vacant brownfield sites in the town.

This brownfield support would “address a deep-rooted market failure and facilitate private sector development by companies seeking to grow in the region.”

Work on these long-vacant sites may include earthworks, flood protection and clearance.

The management will meet on Tuesday at 10:30am at Bradford Town Hall.