Huddersfield Civic Society generally supports proposals to enhance historic architecture and listed buildings, improve streetscape, urban greening and focus on the canal corridor, pedestrianisation and development of quality walking and cycling corridors to and from adjoining areas. It welcomes current investment, particularly the National Health Innovation Campus and the opportunities now afforded by the related investment by Network Rail and station improvements.
However, it believes the emphasis of the masterplan should move away from the hope that the council has the financial capability to acquire sites it does not own before development can take place and towards the types of development that promotes private investment with the necessary support and effective dialogue with the council; the masterplan ought not be predicated on, primarily, council ownership. This could delay regeneration and realisation of the proposals (see also concluding comments).
2.3 Stakeholder Engagement & Feedback
Single statement: ‘Support the warehouse connectivity with the town centre and beyond.’
The only reference to the Station Warehouse which is largest single building in town centre with potential of considerable positive impacts on economic viability of related projects in Enterprise Corridor such as residential development in Zone 1.
It seems totally illogical to disregard one of the potential key economic drivers of the town centre, particularly in relation to this masterplan based, as it is, on the theme of ‘enterprise’.
We accept that 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. 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.
The development of major new employment in this area will generate much extra traffic with many coming from areas with poor public transport, such as from land where Kirklees Council has zoned for house building on the urban periphery of existing settlements. Land in, or close to, this area needs to be allocated for a multi-storey car park especially for traffic arriving along Leeds Road and/or park and ride facilities to include a site near Cooper Bridge.
We welcome the focus on active travel links to/from the railway station but the lack of consideration for quality bus route corridors to access, and divert through, this area is a serious omission, given some of the area is beyond many people’s walking distance from the current bus station.
4.2 Development Plots: development Zone 1
Eg ‘It is proposed that the surrounding buildings (to the new market) are refurbished, typically with residential, shared workspace and other employment uses on the upper floors and F&B/leisure on the ground floors. This will increase footfall and benefit from the proximity of the rail station.’
See related comments re: proposition 6 below.
Masterplans Propositions 3 & 4
The apparent removal of a number of current employers’ premises and reduction of parking is curious. It appears there is basically little provision for vehicles and some will/may have to be removed eg around gas works, for football parking and, potentially, some of Cummins’ car park. The access for pedestrians across also the canal appears very limited and dispersed.
Masterplan Proposition 6
Predominantly focussed on streetscape/road improvements and Open Market transformation. Lack of ambition in the council’s need to discuss opportunities, particularly residential, with major landowners eg former GPO and existing sorting office, vacant former Princess cinema/casino.
Given this is an investment corridor and these buildings lie close to the railway station and are key listed buildings within the Town Centre Conservation Area there should be reference to developing a dialogue with owners to support the principle of conversion. Such developments are not reliant on the top-heavy emphasis on the council’s own initiatives, some of which may be too financially burdensome to achieve in the near future.
There is no specific mention of St Peter’s Gardens and upgrading as premier ‘green lung’ within the town centre – simply reference to St Peter’s church. This should be addressed with a greater level of ambition for improving this important and much valued space.
Masterplan Proposition 9
Dubious about halving the number of lanes on this Southgate section of the Huddersfield ring road and traffic calming the remainder. As stated, this needs further work on the impact of such a major dispersal of traffic onto other routes would have. It could well cause regular gridlock on other routes.
Masterplan Proposition 11
This surely is the section in which the huge potential asset of the Railway Warehouse should be included and fully recognised.
Note also that having taken over the running of the Glass Box from the Media Centre, there is virtually no mention of the Media Centre itself (only in 4.1 as part of the ‘innovation quadrant’ with the Glass Box), which remains the main hub for small start-ups and creative businesses.
The whole masterplan appears to be top heavy with the council’s own proposals for capital expenditure. Given the financial situation, one which it is unlikely to recover from for a number of years, more emphasis needs to be given to how Kirklees engages with private sector ownership in support of conversion projects and local employment initiatives that support SME construction schemes and small business opportunities.
This is particularly relevant in connection with the John William St, Northumberland St and Open market areas and, emphatically with regard to the future of the railway warehouse/St. George’s Quarter.
Prepared by the Executive Committee, Huddersfield Civic Society