21 December 2023 —

Kirklees Council’s Cabinet has approved plans to start construction on the first phase of Our Cultural Heart, which is part of its strategy to unlock new jobs and economic growth.   

In addition to facilitating the delivery of Phase One, the released funds of £51.7m will also kickstart work on Phase Two of the masterplan, including site exploratory works, and the process of finding the design team and construction contractor.

Planning for the Our Cultural Heart masterplan, which is the flagship development within the council’s wider Huddersfield Blueprint vision, was approved earlier this year. Since then, work to refine the design and delivery programme has been progressing well.

Today’s, cabinet approval allows for the finalisation of the Phase One design, the appointment of BAM Construction as the lead contractor, and full delivery of Phase One – beginning June/July next year.

This first phase of the masterplan will concentrate on the major refurbishment of the historic former Queensgate Market building, which will be transformed into a vibrant new food hall. A brand-new library will be incorporated within the existing east wing of the same building, with a new glass-fronted extension to the north.

Both the food hall and new library will directly feed out to a new public square, with the connecting space perfectly suited to outdoor cultural events and gatherings.

The latest plans for the second phase of Our Cultural Heart will see a new art gallery and museum brought together under one roof in the striking Grade II Listed building off Princess Alexandra Walk, which previously housed the town’s library.

Combining these offers into one facility provides a more cost-effective development option, while also freeing up the plot of the proposed new building on Queen Street, which was originally earmarked for the art gallery. The Council is currently in discussions with Greenhead College, which has expressed an interest in developing the site as a Further Education facility.

Councillor Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Finance and Regeneration, said:

“We’re delighted to have agreed the next key steps towards delivering Our Cultural Heart.

“This has obviously been a hugely challenging time for the Council. However, we are absolutely determined to deliver a brighter future for Huddersfield and the wider Kirklees borough.

“We have a number of transformational projects in the pipeline – including those we’ve recently secured Levelling Up Funding against. We remain 100% confident and committed in our belief that investment into Huddersfield town centre is the right approach. Standing still will only be detrimental to our town’s future and long-term prospects.

“The capital to deliver Our Cultural Heart has long been ringfenced and the business plan is extremely robust. It will increase the number of visitors to our town centre, safeguard key heritage assets, create new job opportunities, enhance our green credentials and act a catalyst for further economic growth.”