WORK has started on the controversial £4m facelift to transform Huddersfield’s historic St George’s Square.
Civic officials claim the revamp will turn the square into a major attraction and central feature to rival those in major cities.
They say the plan will open up the square to stage major outdoor entertainment events with a capacity for a 10,000-strong audience.
However, its design also aims to preserve and highlight the square’s history and heritage and will have important elements that will make access easier for bus and train passengers.
But there have been concerns that the Square does not need another major revamp and there were concerted protests when there was a plan to move the statue of Sir Harold Wilson.
The council backed down on its proposed moved and the statue will now be moved just a few feet away from its current prime location.
Clr Ken Sims, Kirklees Council Cabinet member for regeneration, said: “Options for the square went through a major consultation process and were developed and progressed as a result of input for a wide range of groups and individuals.
“This is a major gateway to the town and we wanted to make sure we got it right.
“We had to balance the desire for the square to be an attractive ‘arena’ for outdoor events and activities while at the same retaining its character and appearance.
“That’s what the scheme will achieve – developing the square as vibrant and attractive public space to cater for events and maintaining its heritage and character, together with planned and integrated transport facilities for buses, trains and taxis.”
The work will see all through traffic except buses and taxis removed. Those vehicles will run on a slightly re-aligned Railway Street.
Private cars will access the station and George Hotel via a dedicated station approach from John William Street. The number of car and disabled parking spaces will remain the same.
The existing roundabout between the George Hotel and Britannia Buildings will be replaced by an extended piazza capable of transformation into a temporary stage for events with audiences of up to 10,000.
The setts in the upper square will be replaced by stone and granite paving.
The consultations saw a strong public demand for the re-introduction of a water feature and this will be reflected in a waterwall at the entrance to the lower square and water jet fountains in front of the station portico with the statue of Sir Harold Wilson repositioned slightly.
The contractors for the scheme are Wrekin Construction.
The design was produced by Whitelaw and Turkington Landscape Architects of Leeds, in conjunction with the council’s Environment and Transportation and
The scheme is financially supported by Yorkshire Forward, the Regional Development Agency for Yorkshire and Humber, as part of the Huddersfield Renaissance Town Initiative. Funding has also come from Metro, the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.