HCS concerns over combined museum and art gallery plan for Huddersfield’s Cultural Heart

Image of what the new Cultural Heart in Huddersfield town centre will look like

Huddersfield Civic Society is worried the ambitious Cultural Heart plans for the town centre are being watered down.

The society voiced concerns after Kirklees Council’s Cabinet decided to change the plan so the museum and art gallery will now be under same roof – the former Grade II Listed main Huddersfield library – rather than in separate buildings to save money.

The council says this would also free up a plot on Queen Street and an early proposal is for Greenhead College to use it as science, technology, engineering and mathematics block.

But Huddersfield Civic Society chairman David Wyles said: “We have major concerns regarding the proposal to amalgamate the museum and art gallery within the former library.

“The concept of a Cultural Heart emphasised the importance of improving and re-developing the library, museum and art gallery. There is a clear danger of this ambitious scheme being watered down by limiting the key elements on which the ‘cultural heart’ concept was initially based.

“Combining these important assets will severely limit the space needed to re-house the excellent collection currently at Tolson Museum and restrict the art gallery from displaying its important collection and hosting touring exhibitions.”

He said the original plan provided 5,918sq metres for the museum and 3,043 sq metres for the art gallery but the floor space for both will be considerably less if they are in the same building and the museum could lose as much as half.

HCS wants to see further public consultation on any changes.

A report to the Cabinet meeting that passed the plan stated: “One opportunity currently being explored is the combining of the museum and gallery into one building to provide the most cost effective solution in terms of capital spend and operational costs. This in turn would free up a plot on Queen Street.

“The council is currently in discussions with Greenhead College and The Conway Education Trust who have expressed an interest in developing the site for a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility. Alternative potential uses for the plot include hotel and residential.”

Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, said: “A flagship building for student learning in the heart of Huddersfield will attract even more external investment and create more jobs and help stimulate the local economy.”

Work on the Cultural Heart will be done in phases.

The overall plans will see the refurbishment of the former Queensgate Market into a vibrant food hall and Huddersfield Library into the new museum and art gallery. It also includes a new community-focused library, live entertainment venue and a 350-space car park, all connected by a series of world-class public spaces.

The recommendation is that initial works will concentrate on the refurbishment of the historic Queensgate Market site which will be transformed into the new food hall and modern library along with a new outdoor public square. The plan would see various site surveys and preparation work completed throughout 2023 with work getting underway early in 2024.

The first phase of the scheme is expected to be finished in winter 2025.