Historic England has praised Kirklees Council’s vision for a vibrant new cultural and leisure hub in Huddersfield town centre, which will breathe new life into two of its listed buildings.
Kirklees Council has said that creating a cultural experience that is family friendly and welcoming to all has always been their priority. That is why phase one of the delivery plan will focus on the food hall, outdoor event space and the library.
What do the plans involve?
The ‘Cultural Heart’ project will see the refurbishment and extension of the Grade II listed Huddersfield Library, transforming it into a dedicated new museum space, which will showcase the town’s history. The Grade II listed Queensgate Market, which has recently closed, will be redeveloped into a new library and food hall, housing local and independent businesses.
Construction works on these key elements of the scheme will begin in Spring 2024. Some surveys and preparation works will be completed in 2023, with projected completion in Spring 2026.
The project has been planned to use a series of checkpoints or ‘gateways.’ This has allowed for careful review of the scheme and the associated costs at regular intervals. This system has allowed the Council to set out a delivery plan that accounts for the current financial climate and constraints being faced by Local Authorities up and down the country.
New entertainment space
Alongside the repurposing of these historic buildings, the project also features a new entertainment venue, art gallery, urban park, outdoor event space and multi-storey car park.
Commenting on the scheme, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas at Historic England, Emma Sharpe said “the ‘Cultural Heart’ is an ambitious project to revitalise this part of Huddersfield’s town centre. It could offer substantial benefits to local people and visitors, including the enhancement of important historic buildings through increased investment and greater public access. We welcome the way in which the proposals have been developed with consideration for the significance of Huddersfield’s heritage generally and the particular historic and architectural significance of the Queensgate Market and library buildings.”
As the Government’s expert advisor on England’s heritage, part of Historic England’s role is to advise on development proposals affecting the historic environment. Historic England participated in detailed discussions with Kirklees Council and architects Feilden Clegg Bradley during the development of the ‘Cultural Heart’ project plans.
Kirklees Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Graham Turner said: “The investment in, and revitalisation of, our town centres is vital if they are to thrive again. The ‘Cultural Heart’ strikes the perfect balance of creating a vibrant and welcoming destination for all whilst celebrating the town’s heritage and putting the magnificent historic buildings front and centre.”
The overall public and stakeholder response to the plans has been positive. The individual elements that make up the scheme received between 62% and 75% support.