CONSERVATION experts have visited Dewsbury to share success stories from around the UK.
English Heritage chose the town as the venue for its Valuing Places conference after learning about the Dewsbury 2035 masterplan for the town centre, which was published in November.
The plans include three big ideas for the town, including a new high street along Longcauseway to link up the retail park, market and Bradford Road.
Kathryn Gibson, an historic buildings and areas advisor with English Heritage, said: “We’ve been very impressed with the things that are happening and what the town is trying to achieve.
“We thought it was a good chance to show other people what’s happening here and fly the flag for the town a bit.”
The conference at Dewsbury Minster was attended by more than 50 delegates from councils, civic societies and conservation groups in Yorkshire and the Humber.
It looked at good practice for development, problems facing conservation areas and successful schemes highlighted in an English Heritage report, Valuing Places: Good Practice in Conservation Areas.
Ms Gibson said: “We started looking at conservation areas a couple of years ago. From that we identified which areas were a risk and Dewsbury has been identified as one that is along with around 40 others in our region. We’ve been looking at what those risks are and how to tackle it.”
Dewsbury Regeneration Board chairman Coun Paul Kane said: “We’ve got some good ideas from it, particularly Peterborough and the idea of how to deal with these 1960s buildings like Empire House and the job centre.”
In Peterborough, the 1960s corn exchange was demolished to open up Cathedral Square and views of the medieval parish church.
Similarly, Dewsbury 2035 suggested demolishing Empire House and the job centre to make space for piazzas or urban parks.
Coun Kane (Lab, Dews East) said: “Another one of the ideas coming up was land swaps. That’s how they did it in Peterborough.”
Land swaps involve councils and private land owners to trade sites they each own and pave the way for major developments.
Ms Gibson also highlighted the ongoing work in London’s East End similar to the Longcauseway high street idea.
The High Street 2012 scheme in Tower Hamlets and Newham is aiming turn a seven kilometre stretch into an ‘Olympic boulevard’ with restored historic building and public green spaces.