IT has been a long, long wait.
But the controversial £4m revamp of St George’s Square will be finished next month – albeit a year behind schedule.
One of the town centre’s biggest projects in years is due to have a civic unveiling on Thursday, October 22.
And the man now overseeing the project said: “It will be worth the wait.”
Kirklees Cabinet member Clr Peter McBride said: “We will have a square that recaptures the glories, showing off the buildings around it to their best.
“We will also have a space that can be used for so many events and we plan to make the most of it”.
The project, which has attracted much criticism, has been in the pipeline since October 2007.
A grand opening ceremony, where the square’s £50,000 water feature will be unveiled, has been planned for the big day.
Contractors are currently adding the finishing touches to the fountain and testing it.
The installation of lights to illuminate Huddersfield Railway Station, the George Hotel, Britannia Buildings and Lion Chambers will follow in November. The Festival of Light will follow in the square on December 4, proceeded by a Christmas display, complete with giant Christmas tree, in December.
The new square was initially expected to be completed in October 2008.
But hiccups, notably the collapse of contractors Wrekin Construction, delayed the project’s completion.
Kirklees head of regeneration Clr McBride says the new square will finally do justice to its original architects.
Clr McBride said: “It is finally to be finished by October 22 and so far, it’s on schedule.
“I think people in Huddersfield are going to be very pleased with it.
“I am concerned that the town centre thrives and things like this do a great deal for it.
“There was a massive footfall at the food festival, with about 50,000 people. Things like that are about bringing economic activity to the town.
“It’s about celebrating the magnificence of the buildings and the setting itself. The people who planned the square 156 years ago did a fantastic job; the thought, the quality of the buildings and the relationship between the buildings.
“Now we will see the best of what was planned 156 years ago. I think it will match anything in Britain.”
Huddersfield Civic Society applauded the completion announcement but was critical of plans to put illuminated adverts in the square’s bus shelters.
Vice-chairman John Lockwood said: “We are naturally delighted that the council are now able to announce a completion date.
“There is however still a lot of work to be done to finish the spectacular parts of the scheme; the fountain, the water wall and the lighting. Then we shall be better able to judge.
“The Civic Society was very annoyed to see planning applications to plaster the glass bus shelters with advertising. They were intended to allow a clear view of the square.
“We have strongly objected to these and we hope the council will reject the application.
“Members also are disappointed with the state of lights which have replaced the rather nice Victorian ones.”
A spokesman for Kirklees Council said the public can email comments on the bus shelter advert plans to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Kirklees Planning Service, P.O. Box B93, Civic Centre III, Market Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2JR.
The closing date is September 23.
A COUNCILLOR will ask for a special investigation today into the cost of the St George’s Square revamp.
Clr Tony Woodhead claims the controversial redevelopment has cost £1m more than was budgeted when the plan got the go-ahead in 2007.
The Lindley Lib Dem said: “The development has gone from £3m to £4m and taken longer to complete.”
Clr Woodhead is also concerned that the new square is different from the plan which won the support of a majority of people in a survey in 2006.
More than 2,000 people voted on three alternative designs, with Option 1 – by Whitelaw Turkington Landscape Architects – winning 67% support.
But Clr Woodhead said: “I’m puzzled because Option 1 doesn’t mention Chinese granite and it doesn’t include a big black water feature.
“It’s a matter of opinion whether or not you like what was built but I want to know why we haven’t ended up with the design which was agreed three years ago.”
Clr Woodhead will today ask the council’s Scrutiny and Management Committee to investigate the matter.
He wants to know how decisions about the square’s design were made and why there was no debate in full council.