June 2023 —
Kirklees Council cabinet have approved next stage funding for its flagship development, Our Cultural Heart, as it moves towards the delivery phase.
Planning was approved for Our Cultural Heart – the centrepiece of the council’s ten-year Huddersfield Blueprint vision – earlier this year and work to fine-tune the design has been progressing well since then.
On 27 June, cabinet agreed to release a further £5.6m from the project’s allotted funds to trigger the finalisation of a robust delivery programme.
Plans for Our Cultural Heart will see the refurbishment of the former Queensgate Market and Huddersfield Library buildings to house a vibrant food hall and a modern museum and gallery respectively. These new offers will sit alongside a new community-focused library, live entertainment venue and a 350-space car park – all of which will be connected by a series of world-class public spaces.
In addition to approving contract extensions for the project’s architects, engineers and project managers, cabinet gave the green light to the proposed phased delivery programme plus the appointment of BAM Construction Ltd as the lead construction contractor for phase one.
Phase one of the works will concentrate on the major refurbishment of the historic Queensgate Market site, which will be transformed into the new food hall and modern library along with a brand-new outdoor public square. There will be various site surveys and preparation works completed throughout 2023, with work getting underway in earnest early in 2024.
The first phase of the scheme is expected to complete in winter 2025.
Plans for future phases of the development were also considered by cabinet including the proposal to bring the museum and art gallery under one roof in the Grade II Listed building that formerly housed the town’s library.
This move allows for the new building being developed on Queen Street, which was originally earmarked for the art gallery, to have another complementary use. The council are currently in early discussions with The Conway Education Trust, set up by Greenhead College, about the potential for a dedicated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) facility.
Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, said:
“In times of financial challenge, like the ones we are facing now, it is vital that we don’t lose sight of the investment that will safeguard our economy in the future. Our Cultural Heart is testament to our commitment to bringing a prosperous new era to Kirklees along with vital community services like the library, museum and gallery that will all be free to visit.
“I look forward to seeing this important regeneration project come to life and see the positive effect it will have on Huddersfield town centre for generations to come.”
Councillor Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said:
“I’m thrilled that we have been able to update cabinet on the significant progress we’ve made on the Our Cultural Heart project and that we now have all the resources in place to enable us to carry the project forward to construction next year.
“Our Cultural Heart is going to deliver multiple long-term benefits for Huddersfield and the wider borough. 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 investment and economic growth.
“These are exciting times for Huddersfield town centre. The impact of our ten-year Blueprint vision is really starting to be felt and we were also delighted to see refurbishment plans for the George Hotel unanimously approved by the Planning Committee recently.”
Paul Cleminson, BAM’s Project Director for Our Cultural Heart, added:
“This is an exciting scheme for Huddersfield and its wider regeneration. As a resident of Kirklees, I hope that this will be another vital piece of the plan, to attract people back to the town centre.
“The chance to build something special for the town brings with it an obligation, as a responsible business, to use this opportunity to add value to the local economy and community. For BAM, it will allow us to build on the work we are doing at Huddersfield Station and the new Daphne Steele Building for the University, where we are working to leave a positive community legacy, as well as delivering outstanding new buildings and infrastructure.”