PROTESTERS have vowed to battle to the bitter end to save Huddersfield Tourist Information Centre.
They fear that vital services are to be scattered across Huddersfield town centre in controversial plans to close and replace the town’s tourist information centre on Albion Street.
The centre, which also sells tickets for regional and national events, is to shut in September.
Huddersfield Library will take over a host of information services and souvenir sales while Huddersfield Town Hall and the Lawrence Batley Theatre will be responsible for ticket sales.
Council chiefs have also revealed that an exhibition of the new services is expected to open to the public in early summer.
It can now be revealed that there are no plans for the council-owned tourist information building when it becomes vacant.
Shutting it will save Kirklees Council an estimated £58,000 over two years.
The council has insisted the proposed system will improve tourist services and increase visitors – a claim strongly rejected by those battling the proposal.
Lead protester Stan Solomons from Cowcliffe said the new plans will spell disaster for tourism in Huddersfield.
Mr Solomons has accused the council of formulating the plans in private before consulting the public.
"You don’t make up your mind and then have a consultation,’’ he said.
"They think if they announce it quietly no-one will notice.
"Everyone knows where the tourist centre is. It’s been there for 30 years.
"When you come to a town you look for the tourist centre to see what’s going on, not a library.
"They are going to reduce a service. How can they improve it? It’s ludicrous. There won’t be room in that cubbyhole in the library.
"You’ve got to retain the service or improve it and they are doing neither.
"If there are no plans for the tourist centre then that’s even worse.
"The council still won’t explain why they are doing it as the amount it will save, £58,000, is peanuts in their budget."
The plans sparked outrage at a protest meeting last night at Huddersfield Methodist Mission.
Steven Leigh, policy head at Mid-West Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, which supports businesses in Huddersfield, told the meeting he had never been consulted by the council on its plans.
Mr Leigh said: "At a time of recession it seems funny they are tampering with something fundamental like this.
"I want the council to follow a process which the people of this community deserve.
"They’ve not even told us. I’m very disappointed all the people Stan has contacted at the council have not come to this meeting tonight.
"All this inconsistency demands answers."
Newsome and town centre councillor Andrew Cooper added he feared the closure of the tourist office would be another blow to Huddersfield town centre, which has experienced a number of shop closures since the start of the credit crunch.
He said: "We want the council scrutiny panel to look at this.
"We need someone to look at this because it does not stack up."
Kirklees has promised that the closure will not lead to any job losses.
The relocated office will take on a 37-hour full-time equivalent post, which could be made up of two part-timers from the staff of the current office.
The council intends to relocate other staff elsewhere in the council.
It also plans to move displays by local societies to prominent places in the Piazza or at Huddersfield Library.
But Clr Christine Stanfield, Cabinet member for culture and leisure, defended the decision.
"Can you imagine the uproar if the tourist information centre was currently located in the central library and we wanted to move it an obscure side street?
"Any tourist arriving in Huddersfield will find it easier to locate the library-based service rather than a small shop off the main thoroughfare.
"Our plans for the tourist information centre will improve the service being offered to the visiting public.
"The new centre will open for longer hours to deal with enquiries from visitors and local people and sell souvenirs.
"It is likely that the number of visitors will increase because Huddersfield Central Library is a busy information hub which attracts the highest number of visitors in West Yorkshire. Its associated art gallery is also a tourist destination in itself."