Group appointed to manage Dewsbury's revived Victorian shopping arcade

Local businesspeople and investors will manage The Arcade in Dewsbury following a decision by council chiefs.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 4:30 pm
Sarah Barnes, left, and Natalie Liddle from The Arcade Dewsbury Steering Group
Sarah Barnes, left, and Natalie Liddle from The Arcade Dewsbury Steering Group

The six-strong non-profit community benefit company "The Arcade – Dewsbury" will take on the project’s lease for 10 years.

The group got the green light at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s decision-making cabinet on Tuesday (January 18).

Dewsbury East councillor Eric Firth, who is also the council’s cabinet member for town centres, said: “The rejuvenation of The Arcade is an exciting project and will bring our vision for Dewsbury town centre to life.

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“Community-led regeneration is at the heart of The Arcade offer with the proposed lease to the community group making it the UK’s first community-run shopping centre.

“Having a local company run by local businesspeople and investors with the support of the local area, operating The Arcade will enable local energy, commitment and expertise to be utilised to the benefit of the town and create the opportunity to keep any surpluses within the town to further future regeneration.

“The Arcade, which was much loved by Dewsbury residents, will become a new facility that is valued by the local community and celebrates its history while bringing it up to modern-day standards.

“A refurbished arcade will be an important component of the town centre and similarly will give a vibrancy to the town which will help the performance of The Arcade.”

The people behind the management company are Peter Mason (Mood Developments); Anis Dadu (XYZ Legal); Sarah Barnes (Barnes Field pub chain); Yunus Patel (Savile Town-based YMG Construction); Keith Shaw (Dewsbury-based Wilby Transport); and Natalie Liddle (WSA Arts).

The project manager will be Chris Hill, a community business specialist taken on by the council to handle the 1880s landmark building.

The re-opening of The Arcade, one of Dewsbury’s grandest – and most fondly remembered – old buildings has been touted as a catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.

Kirklees Council, which bought The Arcade for £900,000 in May 2020, has its restoration at the heart of the Dewsbury Blueprint, a 10-year plan to regenerate the town.

The Grade II-listed building, which connects Corporation Street with Market Place, is in the throes of a £3m re-fit.

The final cost of the project has been estimated at £6.7m.

The group’s proposal indicated how it would ensure vibrancy, inclusivity and make The Arcade family-friendly.

The council said there was “a clear vision as to how The Arcade would be curated" with wider social benefits explained via the recycling of surpluses into the project and in the longer term (if finances allow) other Dewsbury projects and initiatives.

A popular shopping destination for generations since it was built in 1889, The Arcade fell victim to changing times and closed in 2016.

It has 17 small shops book-ended at each corner by four larger three-storey units. There is also a second floor that is intended will be accessed via the creation of a lift and staircase within 18-20 Corporation Street.

The four-storey Grade II-listed property plus the adjoining two-storey 17 Foundry Street were bought by Kirklees Council last year for an undisclosed sum.

The Arcade is being transformed into 15 small shops, four large end units and seven first-floor studios with the aim of attracting independent, craft-orientated retailers with high quality cafés or bars at either end.

Commenting on the arrangement, Leader of Kirklees Council, Shabir Pandor, described the purchase of The Arcade as “a measured risk” and added: “If we don’t take measured, calculated risks, then what is it that we stand for as politicians?

“At any point if we do get advice that sets alarm bells going, we will have to look at this. The bottom line is that it’s tax-payers’ money.

“At the same time we have got to talk the town up.”