£2m refurbishment for borough’s town halls to increase commercial appeal

Town halls in Kirklees are to receive a £2m brush-up to make them attractive to hirers and to compete with other venues in the competitive hospitality sector.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 1:00 pm
The refurbished concert hall at Dewsbury Town Hall
The refurbished concert hall at Dewsbury Town Hall

The cash will be being spent on the flagship buildings in Huddersfield, Dewsbury, Cleckheaton and Batley to undo years of financial neglect of internal décor.

It is hoped that investing in furnishings, equipment and “decorative finish items” will unlock opportunities by enhancing the buildings’ commercial appeal and customer experience.

Kirklees Council has already spent £400,000 on improving its civic buildings during the Covid lockdown period.

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It has now released a further £1.835m to refurbish or replace outdated décor as well as poor theatre seating, lighting, toilets and hospitality facilities over the next five years.

A focus on essential external work in recent years means interior style has been overlooked.

A report to the council’s cabinet said: “This has led to a situation where significant sums have been invested in the essential fabric of a building, but because there has been no associated enhancement of décor, fittings, fixtures and equipment, the building is no more appealing to customers or hirers than it was prior to the investment, severely limiting opportunities to generate a financial return on any major investment.”

The report added: “At the same time, other operators are coming into the market, and existing operators are refurbishing, which means we continue to lose valuable market share, as customers take their business (and their activities/entertainment) elsewhere.”

Both Huddersfield and Dewsbury Town Halls form part of their towns’ respective Blueprint masterplans, while Cleckheaton Town Hall is said to complement the council’s wider small centres agenda.

They are also used by community organisations and are hired to present shows.

Batley Town Hall was described as a centre for a wide range of community-based activities requiring flexible meeting spaces and performance arts groups.

External income generated by those hirers is used to offset day-to-day running costs.

As well as providing civic office space, Huddersfield Town Hall is a popular wedding venue.

Happy couples can choose to celebrate with a cocktail ceremony, a wedding breakfast or a “dream wedding package” that offers the court room bar and concert hall for between 75 daytime and 150 evening guests.

The cost for that option in 2022 is just under £5,000.

Coun Will Simpson said the investment was about regenerating “heritage buildings” to put them at the heart of local communities “for years to come, and to maximise the opportunities that we have from them".

He said that investment would result in “considerable returns”.

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