Massive cultural heart scheme will be big boost for Huddersfield town centre … but there are concerns

PictureKirklees Cultural Heart will radically change Huddersfield town centre

Huddersfield Civic Society has given a full response to the £210m Cultural Heart plans for Huddersfield town centre and you can read it on our planning page or by clicking here.Below is a news release we’ve put out which is a summary of our response.

The £210m plan to create a Cultural Heart in Huddersfield town centre is vital to bring people in but there are several worries about the scheme.

Huddersfield Civic Society has welcomed the overall plan but feels there needs to be far more car parking and has concerns over how viable the scheme will be in the long-term.

Huddersfield Civic Society (HCS) secretary Martin Kilburn said: “The refocussing of the town centre into an attractive and vibrant place to visit as an important step on the route to encouraging visitors back into our town centre.”

But HCS is concerned the plans involve the demolition of Boots, seen as an important anchor store, and WH Smith on King Street. HCS says “there is some indication to suggest local residents are increasingly visiting Halifax, partly as a result of the closure of Marks and Spencer in Huddersfield. Further closures could exacerbate this loss.”

The recently submitted planning application has at its heart a 2,200-capacity concert, conference and events venue – but with only a 350-space multi-storey car park.

The Venue will be on the site of the demolished Market Hall multi-storey car park while an extended Queensgate Market building will become a food court and new library. A new museum will be in the current library building and there will be a new art gallery in Queen Street.

In its official comments on the plan HCS adds: “A 2,200 indoor event venue, a 3,000 outdoor event space, a large food market venue in the market hall, separate new buildings accommodating a new museum in the former library, a new art gallery and a new library must clearly generate a need for many more parking spaces if they are to have any chance of being financially viable.”

HCS says the new 350 space car park will be nowhere near big enough as around 80% of visitors attending events are expected to arrive by private car. The demolished former Alfred Street multi-storey car park had 588 spaces but there is nothing in the plan to explain how this lost parking will be replaced.

HCS says only one entry to the car park with vehicles leaving it forced to turn
left onto the ring road may become congested during busy times with traffic backing up.

HCS adds: “Operation of the car park via a single entry onto the ring road is unworkable, unsafe and will discourage visitors.”
It says the underground entrance to the old car park from Queen Street South should be reopened to solve these issues.
HCS is keen for the plan to succeed but, after looking through the planning application, says more work is needed to ensure its success.

It says: “A ratepayer funded project such as this should not be considered for approval without a supporting business plan demonstrating the visitor numbers required for financial viability of the development.

“Without key evidence of viability, councillors do not have sufficient evidence to decide on approval of the plans or its related spend.  The recent interest rate changes, inflation in material costs and reduced appetite for risk both by developers and investors has increased the risks associated with the Kirklees Cultural Heart.”

HCS believes that plans to hold events for 3,000 people outside on the open space, in a section called The Square, are over ambitious due to the management of large numbers of people who could attend and the number of toilets.