Sewell Construction was appointed to turn four existing shops units at Bradford’s Kirkgate Shopping Centre into one large retail unit for leading high street retailer TJ Hughes, working on behalf of client Workman.

Workman is the largest, independent commercial property management and building consultancy firm in the UK, managing over 3,500 properties.

Attracting 15 million visitors each year and situated in the heart of Bradford’s City Centre, Kirkgate is a key part of Bradford’s core retail market.

Work needed to be completed across five floors and it was a challenging project due to noise restrictions set out in the tenants’ lease agreements and by the centre management team.

This was in addition to other challenges, including limited space, restricted deliveries, high footfall and predominantly pedestrianised areas outside the centre. Out of hours working was one of the main hurdles to overcome.

A new stockroom needed to be created in the existing basement service yard, with a new lift shaft and staircase leading up to the main shopping unit on the ground floor. A new glazed shop front also needed to be installed to identify the base as one single retail outlet.

Sewell was appointed based on cost and quality, and has already developed an existing working relationship with Workman, having completed previous projects in Hull and Leeds.
Past projects included converting two existing units into one 1,300 sq m unit for a major kitchen, bathroom and furniture retailer on a Hull retail park, with the space eventually becoming the company’s first showroom to feature all of its ranges.

Two other projects of note included forming three Victorian buildings into one unit, creating a home for a high-end restaurant at the popular Victoria Quarter in Leeds, and a 504sq m extension to an existing commercial unit in Seacroft, Leeds, providing additional warehouse space.

Project development

Before work began on-site, the Sewell Construction team had regular meetings with Workman, the architect and structural engineer, as well as centre management team, to ensure everyone knew and agreed the programme of works, which ran from September 3rd, 2018, to February 15th, 2019.

The site delivery team planned ahead, talking to all adjacent shops and tenants within the centre on a daily basis to keep them informed of activities and progress on site, and ensuring Sewell continued to be a good neighbour.

Communication was key on this project, ensuring the centre management team also knew exactly when any power shutdowns needed to occur.

Plans were adapted to work out of hours due to noise restrictions within the shopping centre during the day, which meant 50% of the project was completed overnight.

Access and egress proved incredibly challenging, as access was through the live basement and delivery area.

Access to the upper levels had height restrictions and plans were made for deliveries to bring materials in on smaller flatbed vehicles before they were moved using a forklift truck to ensure they could reach the construction areas.

Deliveries had to be coordinated around the neighbouring retailer’s delivery schedules to minimise disruption and plans were put in place for the project deliveries to arrive steadily to ensure as little space as possible was utilised in the basement area.

A considerable amount of time was spent looking into the original mechanical and electrical services originally installed during the 1960s and ’70s, with minimal record information available. It wasn’t immediately clear what changes had been made over the years and the team needed to verify these before any isolations or alterations were made.

Sewell was involved in certain elements of the design, but not exclusively, which posed an additional challenge, as approvals were required from the architect, structural engineer, mechanical and electrical consultants, and the client. Regular design team meetings and communication ensured the design ran as smoothly as possible.

Asbestos was identified within the shops before work began and the necessary support was enlisted from a specialist asbestos removal firm to ensure it was removed in the correct and compliant manner, with clean air certificates issued.

The supply chain was chosen on tried and trusted relationships.


Key milestones in the project included:

• Setting up temporary hoardings, welfare offices and site compound
• Installing a temporary fire alarm system and interface with the centre systems and emergency procedures
• Stripping out the existing shops and fittings
• Mechanical and electrical isolations
• Asbestos removal
• Demolition of masonry walls
• Removal of existing floor screeds
• Foundations and construction of the storeroom in the basement
• New floor screed
• Construction of a new lift shaft and staircase
• New structural steelwork support to accommodate the new glazing system to the shop front
• Installation of new fire doors
• Mechanical and electrical final fix
• Fire stopping works
• Decoration
• Handover

Existing incoming electrical supplies to the individual units needed isolating before demolition work could be undertaken.

Daily communication with the centre management and security teams occurred throughout and newsletters to key stakeholders on a fortnightly basis detailing the progress made, which led to strong relationships on-site and beyond.

The team reduced its work area in the basement by two thirds to accommodate live reindeer for the community at Christmas, pulling the fences in to ensure it was easier for the public to attend.

The Sewell Construction team also worked alongside another construction company appointed to complete the shop fit-out, which meant both had to understand each other’s roles and commitments to the project to remain on-site at the same time.

Following completion, the team remained on-site, picking up any snagging items, supporting the management team throughout the handover and showing them how each system, such as door coding and alarms, worked.


The project was delivered on time and on budget.

Twenty-five subcontractors were involved in the project, with 256 site inductions carried out.

Space was available on site for skips, which ensured waste was not mixed and recycling was high priority whenever possible.

The team took between 15 and 20,000 concrete blocks out of the building during the demolition phase at night and took up 22,000 sq ft of floor screed and replaced it with new.