“Clean up Dewsbury if you want the town to succeed”, says Tory councillor
Town planners tasked with rebranding Dewsbury as a place to shop and live have been urged to look at ongoing issues of anti-social behaviour such as on-street drinking.
The plea came as the team behind a massive overhaul of the town gave an update on the progress of regeneration projects worth tens of millions of pounds.
They include revamps of the market, the Victorian arcade, the bus station and the creation of a town park, which is aimed at creating a family-friendly environment.
But amidst praise for the ongoing rejuvenation of Dewsbury which has recently picked up more than £24m in government cash, was an acceptance that it had a reputation for being unsafe and “unnerving” at night.
Councillor John Taylor (Con, Kirkburton) said Dewsbury’s reputation for anti-social behaviour and comments from visitors feeling “unsafe” amidst people openly drinking on the town’s streets during daytime meant improving the town’s image would be a struggle.
He said: “That gives you a sense of the scale of the challenge.
“Until we can tackle that feeling [of being] unsafe and those unsavoury characters drinking on the streets and the anti-social behaviour during the day – never mind in the evenings – Dewsbury will continue to struggle.”
The council’s head of town centre programmes, Simon Taylor, said the issue of anti-social behaviour came up “time and again” but that other towns such as Holmfirth, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton were similarly affected.
“It is pretty pronounced in Dewsbury. It is a serious problem and it is ruining the perception of the town centre as a whole.
“Not having a particularly high footfall during the day and evening makes Dewsbury feel quite lonely. That early evening part can be quite a difficult time.
“That could be quite unnerving particularly if you’re a young person, an old person or a woman feeling vulnerable.
“I’m not sure what the solution is. We are working quite hard with the police to try and tackle this.”
Mr Taylor and his team are aiming to revitalise Dewsbury via a combination of schemes that collectively will pump around £50m into the town.
Dewsbury Market, described as “a priority project” for the council, will get £15.5m with building work set to begin in mid 2022. It is earmarked to open in the summer of 2023.
Dewsbury Arcade is in the midst of a £3.7m refurbishment and is also envisaged to open in summer 2023.
The so-called Town Park opposite the town hall will cost £14.9m. It was described as “a showcase project” for the whole town that is expected to begin construction in early 2024.
Designed as a family space, building work will be “quite disruptive”. It is set to open in early 2025.
The council is also planning to deliver around 200 new homes in Daisy Hill over the next 10 to 15 years and is assembling land and properties to realise its vision.
Then there is the conversion of the vacant Grade II-listed Field House, opposite the railway station, which is destined to become 23 high-end apartments for town living that could appeal to people working in Leeds.
Finally Dewsbury Bus Station is get an £8m overhaul. Building work is scheduled for 2023 with an opening date of 2024.