HCS Members’ Update December 2023

My last update before the Christmas break as we see the year out with increasing financial difficulties faced by Kirklees Council but, equally, some positive news and a hint at some of our planned events for early in 2024.

Open Market and Penistone Line to receive funding from Government Levelling Up programme.

It was recently announced that Kirklees has been awarded £16.6m from the government’s Levelling Up fund to restore and convert Huddersfield Open Market into a food hall and provision for around 60 market stalls on the open area adjacent to Tesco.

The Penistone railway line will also receive funding of £48m to improve connections between Huddersfield, Barnsley and Sheffield. Both investments complement proposals embodied in the Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor (see below) as well as encouraging greater use of rail transport into Huddersfield.

Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor

Having mentioned public consultation was to take place on this initiative in my last update with a deadline of December 8 for submitting comments, we discovered that the critical Appendix 1 with the full masterplan could not be found on any Kirklees sites.

Having alerted Kirklees officers to this  we have now received an apology saying: “The links to Appendix 1 are now on the webpage Have your say on the Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor | Kirklees Council.  Part A contains the first 48 pages of the Masterplan Framework document and Part B the other 26.

The HCS Executive Committee will be submitting comments in the next few days but hope you will have time to review the contents of this initiative and submit your own responses.

Nominations invited for Huddersfield Civic Society Design Awards 2023

As mentioned in my last update, the Design Awards are now open for nominations. Details can be found on the HCS website Design Awards page and our web manager, Andy Hirst, provided an excellent summary for the Huddersfield Hub.

Members have until December 31, 2023, to submit their choices and hope you will be able to keep an eye out for any developments (including community initiatives) that meet the criteria.

Planning Issues

In my last update I mentioned that HCS representatives were hoping to arrange an update meeting with Helen Bower, Kirklees Team Leader-Conservation, Design, Ecology & Trees. This has now been set for January 17, 2024. Our concerns regarding the increasing number of vacant and vandalised listed buildings and enforcement by the local authority will be at the top of the agenda as well as an update from Helen on progress on safeguarding key buildings such as the former Huddersfield Infirmary.

In addition, we have arranged a meeting with David Shepherd, Strategic Director Growth and Regeneration, to raise a number of issues and concerns as articulated in a letter sent to him recently saying: “Following the Cabinet meeting on 27 June when the Cultural Heart was discussed and it was decided to amalgamate the art gallery and museum within the former library, there has been little information or public consultation regarding the current situation. Not only has concern been voiced by our own members but we are aware of similar concerns raised by other organisations, including Huddersfield Local History Society and Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society.

“Similarly, we find ourselves either having to request an opportunity for consultation eg the Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor, or have received little feedback on why issues have not been explored. The problem of consultation without adequate engagement was highlighted at the High Street Task Force workshop I attended last Friday where an emphasis was placed on collaborative working.

“We have for the last 5 years made diligent efforts to support the council in its efforts, recognising that (as will on occasions be the case) we do not always see eye to eye. However, we do find it disheartening the number of times our suggestions have been overlooked or sidelined, as was the case regarding shopfront improvement, with little effectively being achieved over many years.”

I will report on both meetings in future communications.

Railway Warehouse

HCS colleague Howard Smith and I were delighted to meet Susan Meadwellon site manager for HD1 Developments, owners of the station warehouse (St George’s Quarter) and consequently arranged a visit to the warehouse to discuss proposals, issues and support, along with Martin Kilburn and Gideon Richards.

The warehouse is, by far, the largest building in Huddersfield with approximately 30,000sq ft per floor over five floors and immense potential, not only in bringing the Grade 2 listed building back to life but in creating a considerable impact on the economic and investment opportunities of the town and particularly the St George’s Square area.

As such we were disappointed that the Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor (see above) makes virtually no reference to this building, an issue which we will take up in our response to the public consultation.

It will be, along with its adjacent land which has been requisitioned by Network Rail for the Transpennine upgrade, included in the Station Gateway business plan, for which consultants are currently being sought. However, it is very clear that the future of the building should not solely be predicated on it being an element in the future of the station and transport improvements but integrated into a much wider recognition of infrastructure and economic investment.

On a specific issue, the owners of the warehouse have, to date, spent around £9m on replacing windows, roofing and other repairs but the building is suffering from serious vandalism, particularly from windows being smashed by people using the footpath that leads from New North Parade to Fitzwilliam Street. On our visit Susan had had to move her office because of large stones thrown through the windows the night before.

I hope Susan will be able to give a presentation to HCS about the plans for the building in the New Year and welcome her and owner, Mohammed Puri, as Corporate Members of the society.

Events and Activities 2024

We are in the planning stage of a new programme of events for the New Year. Here are some of the intentions for the first four months.

  • Presentation on proposed refurbishment of the Railway Warehouse (St. George’s Quarter).
  • Presentation by on the Transpennine Rail Upgrade.
  • An informal Members/Meet the Committee event.
  • The annual HCS/University lecture
  • HCS AGM and Design Award presentations.
  • Buildings at Risk – a presentation by Historic England and Kirklees Conservation.

In addition, planning is underway to produce next year’s Discover Huddersfield Walks’ Programme, details of which are expected to be published by late February.

Membership Renewals.

Over the next week or so members will receive their annual letter regarding renewal of membership (except those who joined in the past 10 weeks).

As I have tried to demonstrate over the year in my updates, every effort has been made by the society to promote the architecture, heritage and future of the town and I hope we will be able to benefit from your valuable support which helps with all the activities we are engaged with over the year.

On that note, I wish you a very happy Christmas and winter break and very much hope to see you in 2024.