£200m Dewsbury Blueprint plans set to come under cross-party scrutiny

Massive regeneration projects in Kirklees such as the £200m Dewsbury Blueprint are to come under extra scrutiny following an agreement by councillors.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 6:00 am

All parties on Kirklees Council will join together to inspect, analyse and dissect major schemes before decisions are taken on spending or to move forward with planning.

Core programmes set to come under the microscope are the Huddersfield Blueprint and its £210m “cultural heart”, the £200m Dewsbury Blueprint, and the Small Centres Programme, which will see £6m invested in Batley, Cleckheaton, Heckmondwike and Holmfirth.

The decision to establish what is being described as an ad-hoc scrutiny panel follows calls for greater clarity on major projects as well as transparency around the decision-making process.

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An artist's impression of what the rebuilt Dewsbury Market could look like

It means members of the decision-making cabinet, the officers running the projects, and the consultants hired to deliver them will all feed information to the four-member panel.

Describing the new body as “a platform” for early pre-decision inspection of “very important regeneration projects”, the chair of the council’s overview and scrutiny management committee, Coun Liz Smaje (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw), said: “We really need to scrutinise these projects in depth and this is hopefully a way of providing that.”

Coun Andrew Cooper (Green, Newsome), whose ward includes Huddersfield town centre, said for the panel to operate effectively it needed to undertake scrutiny well in advance of decision-making.

He said: “We do need to be able to look at the development and the ideas of schemes at an early stage for us to be able to have a meaningful input. Otherwise cabinet will just shrug their shoulders and do what they were going to do anyway.”

The Labour-led authority has previously been criticised for not sharing detail on its blueprint plans.

That prompted the Liberal Democrats last summer to call for a “cross-party, cross-partnership” arrangement as well as a pause to the project in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the same time the Greens suggested that a partnership board be formed that as well as councillors from all parties might also include key businesses, the college, the university and Huddersfield Civic Society.

In recent weeks the Conservatives have warned against over-reaching on the Huddersfield Blueprint as interest rates sky-rocket and the estimated cost of delivery goes up. They have asked to see a business case for the mammoth scheme.

Recently released designs for the Huddersfield Blueprint show a new library, events space and multi-storey car park, and a town park.

The Queensgate Market is earmarked to become a food court and the Central Library will become a new museum for Kirklees with an extension providing space for a new art gallery.

The Dewsbury Blueprint involves a rebuilt market in the town centre as well as the restoration of the Victorian Arcade and a town park on Longcauseway.

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