IT’S a rare time when local planning issues and historic buildings are top of the public’s agenda.
But in Huddersfield at the moment it seems the twin problems of what to do with Castle Hill and the newly closed George Hotel are lightning rods for public opinion.
Castle Hill, now on its third pub plan, is relatively straightforward.
The Thandi Brothers owned the pub, built a new structure which exceeded the permission they were given and, in a long and drawn out process, were forced to tear it down.
It appears since that episode people (and by that I include our councillors as well as the humble hoi polloi of you and I) seem now to have concrete views on the plan.
It’s either a yes or a no. And there’s no grey area for most.
On one side we have vocal groups opposed to the development for a variety of reasons whether they be economic, environmental or simply because of the owner’s previous planning indiscretion.
On the other we have, I think, a less vocal but probably more numerous group of people who would be happy to see a pub up there if for nothing else to give shelter against the winds that buffet the thousands of visitors who make the trip up there every year.
Either way, there are plenty of opinions flying about – much like the hats on top of the aforementioned hill.
The recently closed George Hotel also provokes strong views. It’s a prime site in the town centre. It’s a historic hotel – not least for the role it played in the formation of the Rugby League.
But what can it be? Will it ever be a hotel again? Is there the demand for the rooms it provides at the current cost? Could it be a budget hotel?
What about a restaurant and offices? Would that be sacrilege to one of the icons of Huddersfield?
Even in these financially straitened times I’m sure there will be people looking around at whether the George could be reborn as flats or serviced apartments. But would that ‘privatisation’ be in keeping with the public role the building plays in Huddersfield?
Either way people will have an opinion on what should happen to this plot.
And for all the disagreements and disparaging words that will be spat out to proponents and opponents of the various plans for these two sites, we should remember one thing.
There can’t be many places in Britain today where people care enough to trade verbal blows to such an extent about something that really doesn’t affect them that much.
As we lurch ever further forward into the 21st century and hear about the fragmentation of society, the breakdown of law and order and the splintering of established norms, surely it’s heartening that in our town there is enough civic pride to get hot under the collar about our history – and how we act as caretaker for it in the present.
For all those who want a pub on Castle Hill and can’t understand why some don’t, for all those who believe the pub would be an affront, for all those who want a hotel or nothing and for those who want anything but another empty building, just think how depressing it would be if no-one cared rather than someone disagreeing.
As long as people are willing to argue, then maybe the future of these two sites may just be OK.