As of June this year, Kirklees have announced a grand plan in an effort to completely rejuvenate and give our town a new lease of life – by turning it into a thriving culture hub. To do this, they have pledged a total sum of £250 million to completely revamp six key areas.
- The train station area
- St Peter’s Gardens and Northumberland Street
- Kingsgate and King Street
- New Street
- The Civic Quarter and Huddersfield Bus Station
- The ‘Cultural Heart’ from the library to the university (currently the Piazza Centre)
As well as turning the town centre into a culture hub, the plan also aims to improve nightlife and leisure, and to improve accessibility in and around the town centre by making it more pedestrian-friendly and making it easier for cyclists to travel around the town. Further to this, the bus station will undergo a major refurbishment, and this will improve public transport services.
While the plan has been met with good reactions, there have also been a few criticisms. The National Market Traders Federation (the union that represents the traders in Queensgate market) stated that the plan would include moving the indoor market traders to the area that is now occupied by Boots and what used to be British Home Stores (BHS).
The aim of this move is to make both markets more central to the town while also accommodating a venue for the year of music in 2023.
The union stated, “If both markets, outdoor and indoor were in one location and were central to the town as the tenants of both markets were led to believe, they would be central to any town centre plans.”
The union feel fairly undermined by the plan, stating that the markets need “a more structured and defined plan.”
More recently, it appears unclear whether or not the markets will be moved to the old BHS store after all, as an article published by Examiner Live stated that the whole of the Piazza Centre, including the former BHS store would be demolished – presumably leaving the markets with nowhere to trade.
Ultimately, I think the plan is a great idea but will undoubtedly not be without its problems. There are plenty of derelict buildings in the town centre that desperately need modernising and put to use – take, the Co-Operative building, for example, that has been boarded up since the nightclub Heaven & Hell closed its doors in 2004 – the property was subsequently bought up by Kirklees council three years later and there have been promises of restoration ever since.
However, I feel this is only half of the issue when it comes to Huddersfield. Over the past few years, we have seen a major uprising in violent crime in our once wonderful town. It is now commonplace to see reportings of stabbings and shootings occurring in the town centre, which has obviously been a detriment to the nightlife. The nightclub Tokyo was forced to shut down back in June last year after being forced to install airport-style metal detectors at the door after an unprecedented amount of stabbings in the area.
There is also the question as to where the money to facilitate this investment is coming from, as there have been numerous complaints regarding the conditions of the roads and pavements in Kirklees which appear to have fallen on deaf ears. And while this master plan does mention some changes to the roads, I do hope that it will be enough to encourage people to start visiting our town again and bring it back to its former glory.
By Damon Whittle