Kirklees Council is set to speed up the delivery of town centre improvements for Huddersfield, including a new food court and event space, a new urban park in the heart of the town as well as a new library, museum and art gallery. Next week, councillors will be asked to endorse an accelerated process for delivering the £200M scheme as the council commits to economic recovery across Kirklees.

The Cultural Heart project is the centrepiece of the council’s Blueprint for Huddersfield, a ten-year programme of economic and infrastructure improvements for the town. With the disruption caused to local businesses by the pandemic, the council has been working to find ways to bring the plans forward more quickly. By setting up a dedicated delivery team to oversee the project, the council believes it can save time in moving the projects from the drawing board to construction while making sure the work has maximum economic impact.

The news follows just a week after the council secured £25M government funding for town centre improvements for Dewsbury as part of its transformation plans for the town. And with £6M earmarked for improvements in the borough’s towns, including Batley, Holmfirth and Cleckheaton, the council is following through on its historic commitment to make the biggest capital investment in towns and infrastructure ever seen in Kirklees.

A report to be considered by the council’s Cabinet will ask councillors to appoint a Strategic Delivery Partner to drive the Cultural Heart programme forwards. The move will save the council at least six months in appointing a team and means it can rely on industry experts to move into the delivery phases of the projects. The plan means the council could be in position to have its business plan ready as early as July 2022 with planning and construction work for each project to follow.

The plans include:

  • A new food court and event space in the centre of town.
  • An urban park earmarked for the piazza area.
  • A new library building to include a museum and art gallery.
  • New car parking to replace the Market Hall car park, which is currently being demolished.

Leader of Kirklees Council, Cllr Shabir Pandor, said: “Leader of Kirklees Council, Cllr Shabir Pandor, said: “Make no mistake, a thriving Huddersfield is essential for the economic health of everyone in Kirklees. This investment will see people from North and South Kirklees enjoy a range of choices and opportunities. It’s another way of keeping the Kirklees pound in Kirklees whilst attracting individuals and families to Huddersfield to boost our Kirklees economy in an inclusive way.

The challenge for us is to get these plans off the drawing board and into the construction phase as quickly as we can. We think we can get ahead of the game by tapping into the expertise and know-how of experts and get these projects shovel-ready in the shortest possible timeframe.

Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Cllr Peter McBride, said: “Our work on the Cultural Heart programme is part of a bigger picture of change and improvement for Huddersfield. We already have major projects ongoing in the town at New Street, the redevelopment of the George Hotel and a series of local transport improvements. On top of that, we’ve worked with the University on a very significant investment for their new healthcare campus and there’s plenty of opportunities for development along the station to stadium route. It’s all about momentum now and that’s exactly what this proposal gives us.”

Cabinet Member for Town Centres, Cllr Eric Firth, said: “Town centres are going to look and feel different in the future. These plans will create a place where people want to spend time and enjoy leisure and cultural activities. It’s a plan that respects our proud heritage while having a firm eye on the future. The Cultural Heart programme is tune with the economic changes that are happening across the country but we need to work quickly and be ambitious to make a reality of the vision.

“There’s a real sense of urgency about our work in town centres as we look to recover from the pandemic and support businesses and communities to thrive. That’s why we’re investing in towns across Kirklees where we can speed up recovery and unlock potential.”

Huddersfield Unlimited, the business-led group seeking to promote the town and its economy, has welcomed the investment plans announced by Kirklees Council for Huddersfield Town Centre.

Its Chair, Sir John Harman, said “The plans show real ambition to renew the cultural assets of Huddersfield and can be a centrepiece for wider regeneration. The Council will need to attract significant private investment to fulfil these ambitions and to take the renewal further so that new commercial uses can reshape and revitalise the town, and we have already offered to help find and attract those investors. The Council has made a vote of confidence in the future of Huddersfield which will encourage others to follow suit.”

Jason Whitworth convenes Huddersfield Unlimited’s group of Property experts. He added “Our team has a lot of experience of regeneration projects and expertise in both local and national property markets. It is encouraging to see the Council will be appointing a Strategic Delivery Partner to drive development and we are ready to support its work; at the same time, let’s not forget that we have home-grown capacity ready to hand”