THE biggest change to Huddersfield town centre for decades could be on the way.

Prominent town centre buildings - including the Library and Queensgate Market Hall - could disappear and be replaced in a bold scheme.

But Clr John Smithson, Kirklees Council's deputy leader, said the idea was still in its infancy and said that all the details had to be confirmed.

One big question is: Who will pay for it?

Clr Smithson said: "This is an idea that is at its very early stages.

"Hence, there are no specific proposals, and therefore no answers to immediate, detailed questions people will have.

"I can assure people and traders is that if this idea gets off the ground they will be fully consulted and involved and transitional arrangements will be put in place during any redevelopment."

Council chiefs are acting after a series of problems in town centre buildings.

The library was closed for several days last year with a leaking roof and flooding after heavy rain.

Its electrical system was knocked out for a time and experts say external stonework needs repairing.

Further problems have occurred at the Queensgate multi-storey car park, where sections were sealed-off when structural faults were discovered.

Queensgate Market - opened a little over 30 years ago - was a replacement for the old market hall, where Boots store now stands.

But it has proved unpopular - with customers criticising its appearance.

Clr Smithson said the whole area needed modernising.

He said: "What we are talking about is an idea in principle, to be further explored in much more detail.

"Everyone concerned will have their say if this idea goes any further. At the moment, we just want to see whether this is a runner."

He explained: "This area needs a major change and a facelift.

"With funding opportunities that could be available this is a key opportunity to explore the potential to transform this area and bring added benefits, such as physically linking the town centre with the university," said Clr Smithson.

A council Cabinet meeting next week will be asked to enlist experts to come up with a blueprint.

Clr Smithson said any changes would fit in nicely with the Kingsgate Centre, opened just over a year.

A dynamic mix of cultural and commercial activity was in prospect if the transformation went ahead, he added.

"People will have their own thoughts and concerns, particularly those directly involved, such as traders and market hall stallholders," said Clr Smithson.

"They will have many questions. We share those concerns and have the same questions.

"But until the expert consultants have had a look at this for us we won't have the answers."

A statement was being made now to avoid information leaking out in pieces, he added.


Library and art gallery: Building work started in the 1930s. It opened in 1940 as Britain was at war with Germany. The art gallery got a stylish new look only last year, but suffers because of its second- floor location and long flights of stairs.

Market hall: Officially opened in April, 1970. It replaced a much-loved Victorian hall on another site in the town centre. Renamed Queensgate Market in April, 1987. A recent decline has led to some stalls being vacant.

Multi-storey car park: It opened in October, 1969, at a cost of £239,000. It closed for 10 months in 1999 for £400,000 improvements. It has 588 spaces.

Piazza: Completed in 1968 and has 36 shops. It is a popular place to chat. In summer it is a setting for children's entertainment.

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