Levelling up: MP brings Michael Gove to Batley to push for much needed investment

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The MP for Batley and Spen, Kim Leadbeater, showed the senior Cabinet Minister Michael Gove around the centre of Batley this week to argue for government investment in the town.

The visit on Thursday, December 15, has been hailed as a major achievement for the MP, who called on Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, to come and see the needs of the area for himself during exchanges in the House of Commons earlier this year.

During the walkabout, Mr Leadbeater showed Mr Gove the plans for a major redevelopment of the area around Market Place and Commercial Street, a proposal she submitted together with Kirklees Council in June. However, a decision on which bids from around the country have been successful has been delayed several times.

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Ms Leadbeater also introduced the Minister to local shop owners and to Kimberley Thirkill of the Batley Business Association, who were unanimous in saying the project would be good for shoppers, businesses and the local community.

The visit took place on Thursday, December 15.The visit took place on Thursday, December 15.
The visit took place on Thursday, December 15.

The leader of the Council, Shabir Pandor, who joined the visit, said: “I am pleased to have been able to show Michael Gove, in person, the level of ambition we have in Kirklees.

“A successful Levelling Up Fund bid would make a world of difference to the residents, businesses and visitors to Batley.

“Our towns and villages are unrivalled in terms of potential for destination-making and we need the government to share and support our vision.”

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Coun Pandor has promised that investment in the town centre funded by Kirklees would still go ahead despite pressures on budgets.

However, the full redevelopment scheme relies on around £12 million of central government money from the Levelling Up Fund. Following earlier delays, an announcement on the successful bids, which had been promised by the end of December, is not now expected until the New Year.

Ms Leadbeater said: “It’s very frustrating that we are having to wait so long for a decision from the government on this vital investment, which is already long overdue, but I’m delighted that Michael Gove made good on his promise to me to come to Batley and Spen.

“I think he was left in no doubt from everybody he spoke to that the plans would transform Batley town centre and make it a much more welcoming place to shop, bring the kids, have a meal or enjoy community events.”

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During the walkabout Ms Leadbeater also made the case for funding in other towns and villages across the constituency which she said had been neglected for too long.

Ms Leadbeater added: “Our high streets have been overlooked and neglected for many years, so I took the opportunity of my private discussion with the Secretary of State to press the case for investment in the other towns and villages across Batley and Spen, including Heckmondwike, Cleckheaton, Birstall and Birkenshaw.

“When I was elected I promised to push for much needed extra funding for the area and that’s what I’ve been doing, week in and week out.

“Having the Minister here doesn’t guarantee that our bid will be successful, but I want to thank everybody who took part in the visit for helping me make the strongest possible case for this very exciting project.”