Levelling Up: How major projects in Dewsbury, Batley, Cleckheaton and Heckmondwike are progressing as part of £2bn plan

Towns across Kirklees will see investment totalling £2bn over the next 10 to 15 years, with “good progress” being made on a “significant number” of projects including Huddersfield’s £210m “cultural heart” and the £52m plan to transform Dewsbury.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 29th July 2022, 11:45 am

Tens of millions of pounds are being sought as part of the Government’s Levelling Up scheme, with the borough’s MPs signing off on bids totalling more than £100m for their constituencies. They are:

£18m for the revamp of Huddersfield Open Market.

£48m for improvements to the Huddersfield/Penistone/Sheffield railway line.

An artist’s impression of what a rebuilt Dewsbury Market could look like

Around £19m for Batley town centre, including pedestrianisation.

Around £14m for the regeneration of Marsden New Mills.

The latter bid is being backed by a “passionate” Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley, who called the restoration of Marsden New Mills “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”.

In outlining the sheer scale of the major regeneration projects already underway or set to happen across the district, senior councillor Graham Turner (Lab, Golcar) said: “We have a lot going on and a lot of stuff in the pipeline for future years, so it’s nice to be busy.”

But officers at the ad-hoc scrutiny panel have cautioned that the ambition for Kirklees means some projects will overlap, with a knock-on effect of disruption.

In Huddersfield the mammoth £250m Blueprint is well into its third year.

Plans are well ahead to “decant” traders from the Queensgate Market so that demolition work can begin on the ribbon of shops that surrounds it. That area is destined to become a food court with an events area outside.

The entirety of the cultural heart project – a new art gallery, library, events venue and expanded museum, plus a town park – is set for completion by 2026.

Repair work on the George Hotel is scheduled to be complete by January 2023 with renovation work to create a 90-plus room hotel to begin in June. The building has a completion date of late 2024.

If a bid for Levelling Up money is successful, work could begin on the revamp of Huddersfield Open Market by August 2023 with completion 18 months later. The project involves the creation of a new outdoor market on land next to Tesco.

The transformation of council-owned Estates Building and Somerset Buildings, both in the town centre, will create 45 apartments to kick-start the council’s drive towards town centre living.

Both Huddersfield bus station – the busiest in West Yorkshire – and the rail station are to undergo big changes with the latter forming part of the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade, which will cause issues around Bradford Road as a temporary rail halt is created at Hillhouse.

The Dewsbury Town Investment Plan will see a nine-part project to re-imagine the town centre that includes bringing back into use the Victorian Arcade. Building work is scheduled to begin next summer, with an opening date of summer 2024.

The £15m plan to restore Dewsbury Market is currently under review with no timescales set for building work to start or the improved site to open.

That has a knock-on for the planned Dewsbury Town Park, which cannot go ahead whilst traders “decanted” from the market are situated on town centre streets.

There is also an £11m plan to regenerate the Daisy Hill area, as well as turning Grade II-listed Field House, on Wellington Road, into 23 apartments. Work on Field House is due to start at the end of this year.

Masterplans for the smaller towns of Batley, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Holmfirth – known as “local centres” – are in the throes of being developed and some are further ahead than others.

In Batley there are plans to pedestrianise Commercial Street and improve access to Tesco, and to “green” Market Place to manage traffic better.

Acknowledging that some masterplans were moving quicker than others, Coun Yusra Hussain (Lab, Batley West) sought assurances that neighbouring towns would not find themselves competing negatively with one another, and that it would be healthy rather than unhealthy competition.

For the council Joanne Bartholomew said the small centres plans was still “in its infancy” but that the focus would be on the “unique personal identity” of individual towns.

She said the council didn’t want to “pull retail from one place to another place” and that the team was working on ensuring that thriving town centres kept working effectively for retail, leisure and residents during what she called “significant construction”.

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