YESTERDAY’s announcement of a £100m tourism village at the Galpharm stadium raised the number of potential town redevelopment projects to five.
The stadium plan alone would mean 720 jobs, clubs, shops and a ski slope. But are all projects in the greater interest? And how do they work together?
We asked two senior local politicians.
Cllr Ken Sims, Kirklees Council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, talks about the Council’s strategies and partnership drive to transform the town, and addresses the topical – and often controversial – questions and issues.
IT IS now just over two years since I took the reins of the regeneration strategies for Kirklees Council and its partners.
A lot has happened in that time.
There are many projects aimed at the town centre, some large and some small. However, contrary to some opinion, they all form part of an over-arching strategy and vision for the town centre.
That strategy is based on a team effort to attract the enthusiasm, commitment, cash, and expertise, to bring the maximum benefits for the town, its people and businesses in a planned and structured way.
For example, one key player is the Government’s regeneration agency Yorkshire Forward, which is supporting many of the major initiatives, including the restoration of St George’s Square, plans for the Railway Warehouse, Queensgate, the Huddersfield Renaissance programme, Waterfront and more.
Inevitably, different schemes move at a different pace but they are all part of a co-ordinated programme led by the council through its Regeneration and Development Service.
The main schemes are :
The £200m Queensgate scheme
This will transform a major part of the town centre and provide a new library, art gallery and information centre, a three-storey department store and additional retailing, 100-bed hotel, 100 residential units, improved new market hall, bars and restaurants, up to 900 parking spaces, improved public and open areas, transport, and better pedestrian flows.
The £175m Waterfront programme
Development plans will see an eight acre Chapel Hill site transformed to include a 300,000 sq ft campus for Huddersfield Technical College, and a mix of housing, leisure, catering, public square, transformation of the canal and riverside corridors. A major attraction.
The £26m sports centre and new Tesco.
This plan could see Tesco move to the current sports centre site on Southgate and the existing site developed for shops, housing, offices and a hotel – subject to planning and other consents. The sports centre would move to Springwood.
These major projects are complemented by many other projects to improve the town – the latest one currently underway being the £4m transformation of St George’s Square.
The major schemes are all subject to the usual planning processes, but if those hurdles are cleared we can all get behind the drive to establish Huddersfield as a prominent player on the regional map.
Without pre-judging any of the planning outcomes, I’d like to clarify issues that have been raised in relation to the council’s proposals for the new sports centre and Tesco.
I am pleased that they have attracted different views and opinions. It demonstrates that people are concerned about the town. I want those views to be based on facts, rather than perceptions.
We have a great opportunity to provide - for the first time in 40 years - a new sports centre for Huddersfield, one with an improved range of facilities in a much more centre and accessible location, and in an attractive building.
The council has secured a large chunk of the funding for the centre from the sale of the existing site. But that does not in any way mean that anyone gets favourable treatment in any council legal processes – particularly planning.
Indeed, we have pressed very hard on many concerns raised and Tesco has respond by making changes to some of the design features of its plans.
Inevitably, major initiatives attract concerns. I would like, therefore, to clarify some of the issues.
Q: Will this be a good deal for the council? We get a new sports centre to replace the existing one which is increasingly unsuitable and an increasing maintenance liability.
Independent consultants have assessed the proposals and advised that it represents a good deal for the council.
Q: Is Spring Grove the right location? It is a great site – visible, accessible by car, bus and train, and as close as you can get to the heart of the town.
Q: Will the lost car parking at Spring Grove be replaced? We have said at the outset that we will replace the 433 long stay spaces in other locations around the ring road. Details of these are still be worked on and will be made public when the planning application for the new sports centre goes in later this year.
Q: Will a larger Tesco damage the town’s retail centre? Our planning professionals, and other advisers, assess the capacity for non-food shopping. The Tesco proposals for a larger store take up only a small proportion of the increased available spend between now and 2014 when the new store is planned to open. In any case Tesco’s real impact is on its competitors – the other supermarkets and the out of town retail centres. The impact on the town centre will be minimal.
Q: What about increased traffic? The close proximity of the existing store means that around 85% of the traffic of any new store already exists, together with the footfall of customers. Traffic measures to cater for the small increase will be part of the planning design and traffic management measures.
All in all, the Huddersfield schemes and overall strategy provide a great opportunity to shape our town for the future and to provide great modern facilities for local people.
I hope people will look at the bigger picture and put aside sectional interests and short term political opportunism and support the overall vision and strategy we have to take this town forward enthusiastically, positively and together.
Barry Sheerman MP says our town should have the clear ambition to be the best place on earth to live, work and above all, be happy
GREAT towns and cities are created by amazing citizens.
There are many towns and cities in England, which boast great architecture and are a pleasure to look at, but as we move further into the 21st century we can already witness the decline in both their physical and social fabric.
My vision for Huddersfield begins with our people and an ambition to maintain and develop the first rate qualities of those who made our exceptional town what it is today.
When John Wesley came here in 1757 he said, "I rode over the mountain to Huddersfield. A wilder people I never saw in England."
Yet by the time Friedrick Engels visited in 1845 he could say it was "the handsomest town by far of all the factory towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire by reason of its charming situation and modern architecture".
Since then Huddersfield has become a bustling, modern university town with the potential to surpass all the expectations of those who went before us.
We will only be able to build on our past achievements by ensuring that we give everyone in our community the chance to develop their potential and their skills to the fullest extent. So my first goal is to enable us to become the most educated and skilled people in Europe.
Huddersfield has been renowned for its skills for almost 200 years, with its ability to turn these skills into innovation, creativity, enterprise and prosperity. Now in a much more competitive world we must reach even higher, as we face a future where there will be no jobs for the unskilled.
In Huddersfield we also know how to develop and encourage business leaders and entrepreneurs and we must once again ensure that we nurture enterprise.
Creativity, innovation and enterprise have long inspired the richness of our musical, theatrical and cultural heritage. Today this sector, vibrant as it is in our communities, should be developed and celebrated with a far more adept focus on its potential for the future success and reputation of our town.
Pride in good design has long been central to Huddersfield’s past. This generation owes it to our talented predecessors who were responsible for our churches, town halls, canals, railways and parks to resist being seduced by the unimaginative, the uninspiring or the expedient.
Any vision for Huddersfield must also embrace a healthier town, gone are the days of industrial smog and polluted rivers, yet there are many challenges to face and it is not just about good hospitals, but preventative health care and lifestyle choices.
Environmentally we must set ourselves some ambitious targets. We may have cleaned up our rivers, canals and streams but old tyres, plastic bags and graffiti blight them. Air quality still presents us with a serious problem, particularly in our valleys where heavy road traffic creates a critical environmental challenge. Above and beyond this we must strive to become the leading environmental town in Britain. Climate change and global warming are a threat; we must dramatically reduce our carbon footprint.
At the very heart of my vision is a concern about the way we create wealth in our town and how we retain it within our community. Too many of the businesses in this era of globalisation are faceless companies with no interest in anything but their shareholders and private equity. These corporations suck the wealth out of our town, invest little in return and many of them pay notoriously low wages.
Huddersfield was the first town in the world where ordinary people took control of their lives by creating cooperative businesses, shops, building societies, insurance and mutual aid schemes.
Today we still have many small businesses where owners live locally, employ at good rates of pay and invest back into the community.
We also have a university which is our largest employer, wealth creator and investor in our community. The challenge is clear, to promote forms of wealth creation which develop local talent, pay well and reinvest success back into the community.
Increasingly social enterprises are becoming a vital component of this mix, re-visiting and reintegrating the progressive principles of Thomas Hirst, one of our town’s most famous sons.
For me, my vision of our future must embrace a moral purpose. Surely we should be planning for something better than a society based on selfishness and the primacy of self-interest.
I am mindful that Huddersfield’s Corporation motto was "Juvat Impigros Deus" which translates to "God helps the diligent" or "God helps he who helps himself."
But there were always those who believed in social solidarity, the eradication of poverty, care for ones neighbours and the wider community.
To achieve a successful, sustainable and harmonious community we need to foster a cultural and attitudinal change and return to those essential values that prioritise public and community service. A community that promotes contact and interaction between people from different backgrounds and breaks down barriers.
Where young people are cherished, encouraged and nurtured and older citizens are respected, valued and maintained in a good standard of life. We need to uphold a civic identity that encourages cohesion and a sense of common citizenship.
Finally, I want us to have a renewed pride in who we are, pride in our past, our present and our ambitions for the future.