Only potential tenant for landmark Pioneer House pulls out

KEY LANDMARK Kirklees Council said Pioneer House is crucial to town's regeneration.
KEY LANDMARK Kirklees Council said Pioneer House is crucial to town's regeneration.

The only potential tenant for Dewsbury’s newly-refurbished Pioneer House has pulled out, leaving the jewel in the town’s crown empty.

But Connect Housing, which currently has its Kirklees base in Huddersfield, is still coming to Dewsbury.

The housing association had been due to move into the Grade II listed building in September.

Instead it has opted for another site, which the Reporter understands is the Bond Street building currently used by Arts Council England.

Dewsbury MP Simon Reevell warned Pioneer owners Kirklees Council must not let potential business opportunities slip away.

“This has got to be a wake-up call for Kirklees,” he said. “They need to get people in there working and get on with it. We are lucky that businesses and jobs are still coming to the town, but if Kirklees mess it up again, then they could be going to Huddersfield or Leeds instead.

“They have just about gotten away with it, but they may not be so lucky next time.”

Kirklees has no other prospective tenants lined up, but said bringing Pioneer back into use was a “crucial” part of the town’s regeneration.

Connect Housing director of regeneration Martyn Broadest said the change of plan was purely down to a more suitable alternative opportunity becoming available”.

Dewsbury Chamber of Trade president Trish Makepeace said: “They really should have had more than one tenant as a back-up.

“Connect moving in would have attracted other people into the other floors.”

Kirklees took the keys in 2011 after an inquiry found the previous owners had not made enough progress with the building’s redevelopment.

Coun Eric Firth (Lab, Dews East) said: “We would have welcomed them with open arms, but you have to remember that Connect is a business.

“Rest assured it is our intention to fill that building with other people.”

Mr Broadest said a £1m investment would be made when it moved its Kirklees base to the town.

“The company is in the process of purchasing two adjacent buildings which together will be transformed into a multi-purpose building to provide office, meeting and service delivery facilities,” he said. “Over 60 staff will also be relocating to the new premises.”

An Arts Council England spokeswoman confirmed they were in negotiations for the Bond Street building’s sale and planned to move to Leeds.

Meanwhile, Kirklees Council said Pioneer House and the surrounding Northgate area of the town centre would be regenerated over the next five years.

The work is part of a £4m Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) regeneration programme jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the council.

A spokeswoman said; “The scheme will see historic buildings brought back into use as offices, businesses and residential flats and also see the reinstatement of heritage features.

“A crucial part of the success of the Townscape Heritage Initiative involves bringing Pioneer House back into use.

“We do not currently have any prospective tenants, however we are undertaking a feasibility study which will provide information about the best uses for the building responding to current market conditions.”