It is being heralded as “an exemplar of urban renaissance.”
And indeed the wholesale recreation of the heart of Huddersfield will bear witness to the most transformative re-imagining of the town centre for half a century.
The 116-page Huddersfield Blueprint, unveiled today (June 26), seeks to link the opposite ends of the town, re-brand the railway station as a Gateway to Huddersfield, open up St George’s Square and create a cultural hub at the very heart of the town centre.
The ambitious ten-year plan may involve the demolition of shops around the Piazza to create a park and the remodelling of the area to create a combined museum, art gallery, library and live music venue.
Launching the plan Clr Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “We’re ambitious for Huddersfield town centre and for the whole of Kirklees and planning is underway to regenerate our other town centres.”
The overall project, described as “a decade of ambition”, could cost as much as £250 million.
The project is expected be funded by the council, which has already committed £70m, along with national government, private investors and West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
It sets out to formulate “a recognisable brand” for Huddersfield that embraces high street retailers, a strong market presence and the enhancement of public space.
By far the biggest element of the blueprint is focused on the area around Queensgate Market, the nearby University of Huddersfield, Lawrence Batley Theatre and Kingsgate with its new nine-screen cinema.
Options for the market, which was opened in 1970 and received Grade II listed status in 2005, include a library, art gallery and museum space, or as events space.
The adjacent Market Hall car park could be demolished and replaced with a hotel/conference centre, apartments or a new car park with the building linking in to the re-imagined market hall.
Removing buildings entirely to open up the Queen Street Corridor, tied in to the downgrading of the A62 by St Paul’s Concert Hall, is one of a number of “bold interventions” mooted in the scheme.
It is described by planners as “a once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity.
What else is happening?
Under what it calls its Transformational Plan Kirklees Council intends to:
Re-design the “Station Gateway” by opening up Huddersfield Station and linking to the vacant St George’s railway warehouse via a walkway
Explore opportunities for living in the town centre, and appeal to young professionals commuting to larger neighbouring centres
Create a live music space within the town centre
Open up 16 historic town centre yards to attract niche retailers, specialist or draft businesses
Create restaurants within the Open Market
Landscape the green space within the footprint of St Peter’s Church
Turn the Post Office and adjoining depot into housing
Consolidating the Civic Quarter and to free up space to “radically reconsider” the area for housing
Improve and pedestrianise the area around the bus station.
The Station Gateway would include a new “iconic” western entrance to Huddersfield Rail Station, a new platform and a link to the railway warehouse, which is earmarked for apartments, offices or a hotel. There could also be a 400-space car park.
The council says it is committed to seeing the George Hotel, which faces onto St George’s Square, brought back into use.
The neighbouring Estate Buildings are earmarked for restoration as housing or offices, with retail on the ground floor.
Clr Peter McBride, Deputy Leader of Kirklees Council and Cabinet Member for Economy, said: “Huddersfield is a remarkable place to live, work and invest but it has even more potential.
“With this Blueprint for the town centre, we’re aiming high.
“Huddersfield will be a family-friendly town centre that attracts people from far and wide with its famous Cultural Heart, a place with theatre, art, music and more all in one place.”
He called the Huddersfield Blueprint “our vision for the future of the town centre” but said it was vital that it was shaped by local people.
The plans are subject to a three-month consultation and engagement period, which will begin in the coming weeks. The plans can be read here: www.kirklees.gov.uk/HuddersfieldBlueprint