Kirklees Council’s Cabinet has backed plans to allocate £1.5million each to four of its smaller town centres to support local regeneration.
The money which will be allocated to Batley, Holmfirth, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton will be available for both short and longer term projects to help build on each town’s unique selling points, support the local economy and help the towns recover after the pandemic.
The council has selected these towns as they are the next largest centres in Kirklees, after Huddersfield and Dewsbury. They provide a range of business, cultural, leisure and local retail facilities or are located in areas where there is a greater expectation for local growth. They are also areas where there is already some other investment planned around the infrastructure or council assets.
Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of the Council commented: “Earlier this year we set an investment budget that seeks to make sure we recover from the pandemic, and leave no-one behind.
“As part of this we are looking to invest £6million to support future growth of some of our major towns.
“The current pandemic is shining a light on local centres with more and more people using and discovering what is on their doorstep. On a positive note lockdown has meant walking to the local food store to access everyday goods is more common place.
“Whilst more people are shopping locally, restrictions and lockdowns have made it harder for non-essential retail and service businesses in town centres across the country.
“In order to keep supporting our objectives for inclusion and climate change, we need these centres not only to survive the current crisis but also to be strengthened moving forward so that they continue to play an important part in local community life.
“Each local town has its own identity and communities, no one knows their town better than the local community, which is why we want to involve them in this exciting opportunity to have their say on how we spend the money.’
“We know that these four towns already have great things to offer, but it is really important that we invest now in order that they can continue to grow as we all recover from recent events and 10 years of austerity resulting in £197m cuts to our finances.
“These towns were selected due to both their size and their potential to maximise the investment.’
“I for one, am excited to see how plans will develop with input from the local community.”
Prior to the pandemic, Batley’s retail sector was performing well when compared to similar sized towns, with businesses benefitting from the opportunity to expand, offering more employment opportunities or improve shop frontages. Batley is also home to a number of festivals and events, a regular market and internationally the renowned Bagshaw Museum, as well as a local art gallery and popular Library. The council is also hoping to attract more investment from the Governments Levelling Up Fund for a potential new highway scheme around Bradford Road and Rouse Mill Lane.
Holmfirth is the area’s premier tourist destination, with beautiful countryside, local artists and artisans and links to well-loved television shows. It is set to see improved traffic flow thanks to a strongly community influenced road scheme, a new market offer and possible investment in its library, as well development potential at the existing market site.
Pre-COVID Cleckheaton benefitted from a vibrant night time economy, and strong sense of community, both of which were supported by the prominent town hall that offers both space for clubs and societies. It is also home to a range of popular festivals and a live entertainment programme. The town also benefits from a thriving monthly farmer’s market.
Heckmondwike is ideally located between Dewsbury and Cleckheaton. It has a strong industrial economy with many factories and engineering companies based within the town centre. With the Diamond Country Park, and Ponderosa Wildlife Centre both located in the town, it appeals to both visitors and its loyal local customer base. It has already secured funding for a new bus hub, and works to make the roads safer and more pedestrian and cycle friendly through the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund, it too could see an improved library offer.
In addition to this investment, the council will continue to try and attract private sector and government funding and investment to further their ambitions for these towns and the rest of Kirklees.
The council will work with local councillors and consult local people on how they would like the funding to be spent.
Cllr Pandor has also made a video about the possible investment.
This can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/hzcGKPJgF-g