CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
Huddersfield Civic Society welcomes the technical announcements of major upgrades to the trans Pennine rail route from Huddersfield to Dewsbury by Network Rail on April 1, 2021.
These announcements are an important step towards the full electrification of this essential passenger and freight route. We will continue to put pressure on our local representatives to lobby for that upgrade between now and the publication of the Government's Integrated Rail Plan in the summer.
The changes announced include major developments towards a 4-track electrified route for a section of the trans Pennine rail line from Huddersfield towards Dewsbury, signalling the start of public consultation on the plans.
We agree it is essential to upgrade and electrify this section of the rail route as another step towards delivering the promised fuller improvements to connectivity between York, Leeds and Manchester.
The announcement is also an essential step to the subsequent upgrading of linked parts of the local rail network which would enhance Huddersfield’s connectivity with the rest of the Leeds City region and the wider north. It also would be an important step towards a national programme of decarbonisation recommended by the Rail Industry Decarbonisation Taskforce and supported by a wide range of rail industry bodies.
There would be considerable passenger benefits from shorter journey times and in comfort levels and we look forward to improvements to stations, including accessibility and facilities for cyclists covered by the announcement. Connecting the East Coast Main Line to West Coast Main Line, also creates opportunities to transfer more freight from road to rail between the Humberside and Merseyside ports.
Funding of these upgrade plans and the wider electrification that we are calling for (and have been promised for the last 10 years) will only be clarified in the forthcoming announcement of the Integrated Rail Plan for the Midlands and the North.
We urge government, Transport for the North and northern Combined Authorities to continue to press for this full investment as a precursor to their longer term plans for rail investment in line with the recent recommendations from the National Infrastructure Commission.
This statement has been made by both Huddersfield Civic Society and Huddersfield Unlimited.
Details of the Transport and Works Act Order (TWAO) is on https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/railway-upgrade-plan/key-projects/transpennine-route-upgrade/huddersfield-to-westtown-dewsbury/
By Brian Haigh, vice-chairman of Huddersfield Local History Society
At a recent meeting of Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee approval was given to an application to build a new restaurant, hotel and information centre on the site of the former Castle Hill Hotel.
Locally, the controversial decision was met with surprise and disappointment. At the same time, memories of the former hotel have been prompted and questions raised about its history.
There has been a public house on top of Castle Hill since about 1810-12. In his book on the history of Leeds and its region, published in 1816, noted antiquarian, the Rev, Thomas D. Whitaker wrote: ‘In digging for the foundation of a house within the precinct of the castle a winding staircase was discovered, but was not pursued, as it ought to have been.’
This building was an ‘L’ shaped structure incorporating a licensed house and stabling. It is clearly shown on the early large-scale Ordnance Survey maps of the area. Occupying a site to the north of what was later to become the Castle Hill Hotel car park, it survived until after the Second World War.
Richard Ainley is listed in the 1841 Census as the publican. Aged 40 years, he was living at the house with his wife and three children. Richard’s death in July 1848 must have come after a lengthy period of illness as his widow, Elizabeth, was later to claim that she had applied unsuccessfully for a licence to sell beer in her own right on no fewer than 13 occasions.
It seems likely from what happened subsequently, that the magistrates’ objections were directed not at Mrs Ainley but rather at the building. She took over her late husband’s licence, which came up for renewal in 1851.
At the Brewster (licensing) Sessions held in the Huddersfield Guild Hall on August 23 she appealed to the magistrates as ‘a very respectable widow’ who had ‘conducted the house most respectably’ in the three years since her husband’s death.
Initially refusing, the panel agreed to further discussion of Elizabeth’s case which included proposals for a new hotel on the site. At the Police Court the following week, Mrs Ainley’s plans for the new house were presented to the bench.
Joseph Brook JP, who was also chairman of the Huddersfield Improvement Commissioners, was said to have remarked that, ‘the public were crying out for accommodation and proper places of refreshment’.
He had no objection to the new building as long as, ‘a new and safe road was made’ to the hotel. The application was granted on the condition that the new building was completed before the next annual licensing day. This took place on August 26, 1852, when the magistrates refused to renew Elizabeth Ainley’s licence as she had not fulfilled these conditions.
In her defence, her solicitor Cookson Floyd, argued that ‘every exertion had been made to carry out the stipulations upon which the licence had been granted’. It appeared that the plans and specifications had been approved, the work let and the foundations dug, but construction was yet to begin.
‘The great amount of work going on in Huddersfield and neighbourhood was the sole reason,’ Mr Floyd argued. A successful appeal was mounted at the West Rising Quarter Sessions in October 1852 and building commenced in the following year.
On March 25, 1854, readers of the Huddersfield Chronicle were informed that arrangements were being made for the speedy opening of the new and spacious hotel which had recently been erected at Castle Hill.
With the summer season approaching, the grounds around the new hotel were being laid out as a flower garden, pleasure grounds and a bowling green. For the townspeople of Huddersfield this would be a convenient summer resort, ‘in a locality commanding one of the most picturesque and romantic panoramic views to be met with in the West Riding’.
For their convenience, an omnibus would run between the town and the hotel at stated times during the week. Elizabeth Ainley had already advertised that the new hotel was to be let. In September, the licence was transferred to Richard Noble of Almondbury.
Elizabeth Ainley moved to the New Inn (previously known as the Wessenden Head Inn) at the Isle of Skye in Austonley. William Wallen, Huddersfield’s first professional architect is thought to have been responsible for the design of the new hotel, though there is no written evidence to support this claim.
There are close similarities between the new hotel and the Ramsden estate offices at Longley Hall, now part of Woodley special school, on which Wallen was employed. Both buildings are strongly rooted in local building traditions.
With its castellated tower, the new hotel might have been a shooting lodge or a 17th Century yeoman’s house. Wallen was familiar with Castle Hill and its history having sought subscribers for a proposed guide to the site in 1852. This was never published.
Another proposal by the architect was to come to nothing. This was for a prospect tower at Castle Hill. About 26ft square and 95ft tall, the tower was to accommodate a restaurant, museum and observation room. A wooden model was displayed and aroused much local interest in a town ‘that was without any place of attraction for visitors.’
Isabella Ramsden, a trustee of the Ramsden estate during the minority of her son, Sir John William Ramsden, was less enthusiastic. Her son’s ‘antiquarian taste,’ she claimed, ‘is quite shocked by the idea of the old fort …. on Castle Hill, being disturbed for a new erection of any kind or sort.’
The new hotel must, however, have had the young baronet’s approval as it was built after he attained his majority. Perhaps it represented an improvement on the existing alehouse which it was expected to replace. But this was not to be. It remained alongside the new hotel and, in the summer of 1855, re-opened as a temperance hotel. The landlord was said to be ready for all comers.
‘Teetotallers can be provided with fermented ginger beer,’ while in permitted hours ‘there is for those who require it stronger potations to moisten their clay.’
Waiters moved from one hotel to the other. On Sundays, when the regulations limited the sale of alcohol, alternative refreshments could be offered. This could only add to the attractions of Castle Hill which, it was believed would become ‘the chief pleasure resort’ for the people of Huddersfield and its neighbourhood.
From 1874, the Castle Hill Hotel was taken over by Bentley and Shaw of the Lockwood Brewery.
Local historian Philip Ahier, in his book on the hill, lists the landlords from the 1890s to the 1940s. Bentley and Shaw were taken over by Hammonds in 1944 and subsequently became part of Bass Charrington. In this and subsequent amalgamations, a number of tied houses were sold. This included the Castle Hill Hotel.
Acquired by developers the Thandi brothers in the 1990s there were plans to re-furbish the hotel and remove later additions which disfigured the building. Planning approval was given in 2002. During the course of demolition works, the tower became unstable. Permission was granted to replace the original building but as construction progressed it became clear that the new building was larger than that for which permission had been granted. Work on the site was stopped.
Subsequently, an order was served for the demolition of the building. Since then, the leaseholders — the Castle Hill Hotel remains part of the Ramsden Estate which was bought by Huddersfield Corporation in 1920 — have submitted a number of new plans.
These were all rejected until the present application was approved on October 28, 2020. The low-lying building - variously described as a much-needed facility, a monstrosity or as looking like a branch of McDonald’s - is at the centre of an ongoing debate.
The plans and the decision were the subject of ministerial scrutiny. The outcome was announced on March 22, 2021. Subject to Scheduled Monument Consent, the development can take place. But what would Isabella Ramsden have thought of it?
* Brian’s feature was first published in the March 2021 edition of the Huddersfield Local History Society members’ newsletter.
How controversial Castle Hill plan decision could put other ancient monuments at risk of ‘inappropriate’ developments
Huddersfield Civic Society believes the decision to allow a restaurant and bedrooms on top of Castle Hill may set a dangerous precedent for other ancient monument sites to be spoiled by inappropriate developments.
We have battled against a planning application for the development – which will also include a visitors’ centre with toilets – and asked for the plan to be decided on by the Government after it was passed by Kirklees councillors last October … but the Government has now refused to get involved.
This means the application will now go ahead unless it is vetoed at the 11th hour by Historic England - the commission which oversees historic buildings and scheduled monuments in England - by refusing to give consent for the development. Huddersfield Civic Society (HCS) will continue to lobby Historic England to refuse that consent and it’s thought that Historic England may not come to a decision for three months or so.
HCS’ call-in hopes were dashed in a letter to Kirklees Council on behalf of Housing, Communities and Local Government minister Robert Jenrick which states: “The Secretary of State has decided not to call in this application. He is content that it should be determined by the local planning authority.”
But HCS believes this is setting a dangerous precedent as one of the reasons the minister would call-in an application and make a decision on it was if it “could have significant effects beyond their immediate locality.”
HCS believes this is the case and fears that if the Castle Hill development is allowed, other ancient monuments could be at risk with the Government refusing to look at these often highly controversial applications and leaving the decision to local councils instead.
HCS secretary Martin Kilburn says: “There remains significant concern that approval of the Castle Hill development establishes a precedent which will mean any local authority can approve a major development within the green belt and curtilage of both listed and scheduled monuments anywhere in the country.
“When this is coupled with a size of development which is accepted as being far greater than that needed simply in order to provide private funding of required public facilities, we struggle to understand why this does not fall within the identified remit of the Secretary of State.
“This is why HCS is both deeply disappointed and troubled by the decision of Robert Jenrick’s department not to call-in the planning decision on Castle Hill.
“Our call-in was based on a desire by the society and many residents of Kirklees to avoid wholly inappropriate development on one of the most important green belt locations in Kirklees and to protect one of the north of England’s most important heritage sites.
"Current national policy has specific provisions to protect such sites which last October’s planning decision failed to apply appropriately.
“Declining our call-in request flies in the face of current and proposed planning policy stated to provide protection for the green belt and protection for environmental and heritage assets – to include continuing to protect our treasured countryside and historic places.
“The grounds given for the decision are based on the contention that the Government is committed to giving more power to councils and communities to make their own decisions on planning issues and believes planning decisions should be made at the local level wherever possible.
“This decision appears to us to give tacit approval for wholesale breaches of national green belt policy.
“Despite the lack of call-in request, the development still cannot go ahead without Scheduled Monument Consent from Historic England. The level of our concerns regarding the proposed development are such that we will continue to lobby Historic England.”
The history of Castle Hill stretches back 4,000 years. It began as an Iron Age hill fort before becoming a Norman castle and then a medieval hunting lodge. Grade-II listed Victoria Tower – built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897 and finished in 1899 - is in green belt and can be seen for miles. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI) in recognition of the range and variety of its flora and fauna.
Why this huge new house is setting a very dangerous national precedent in a Huddersfield Conservation Area
A new house being built in one of Huddersfield’s premier Conservation Areas is setting a very dangerous precedent and may have national significance.
Huddersfield Civic Society was against the original application to build the detached house on Kaffir Road in Edgerton but a new application has now gone in to massively increase the size of the home even though work is underway.
We are strongly objecting to this new application as there is no precedent for adding such a large new building into the Edgerton Conservation Area and, if Kirklees Council allows it, we will be looking for it to be called in by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government as the Society believes this application has national significance regarding the very purpose of designating a conservation area.
To read our full objection please click here.
Having had to cancel had to cancel our 2020 guided walks programme we now hope that a 2021 programme of walks will be able to take place from summer 2021. Keep a lookout for further news.
However, a number of Virtual Trails, produced by Kirklees Libraries in partnership with Discover Huddersfield, first broadcast at the end of 2020 and early 2021 are still available to watch. These are:
Each trail will also be available as a stand-alone virtual walk on Google Earth. This can be accessed via a link provided underneath the YouTube video.
People have been urged to get involved with a project to make a giant cuckoo in Huddersfield as part of a worldwide project to highlight endangered species.
On Saturday, May 22, 2021, people from all over the world will create images of endangered animals and plants using clothing donated by local communities. The giant images will be placed on the ground and photographed from the sky, bringing together a myriad of pictures from Taiwan to Brazil and from the USA to New Zealand.
The 20-metre x 20-metre image will be part of a global project called withNature2020 devised by British artist Emma K Thomas who came up with this idea in response to the extinction crisis. It has been developed by volunteers all over the world.
All the countries involved will be choosing an animal or plant at risk of extinction in their local area. In Kirklees, an image of the endangered cuckoo will be created in a field by young artists from The Children’s Art School which is based in Holmfirth.
Local individuals, communities and schools can get involved in donating items of clothing in the colours needed to complete the Kirklees Cuckoo by choosing one, or many squares, from a picture of the artwork. If you’d like to get involved, please email email@example.com using the subject heading withNature2020 or, alternatively, register for an information meeting in mid April.
A Zoom get together for schools and community groups interested in donating cloth and/or clothes to the Kirklees Cuckoo artwork will be held on Wednesday, April 14, from 4pm to 4.45pm.
To join the meeting, register by clicking here.
HCS Members’ Update
Thank you to everyone who has renewed their annual HCS membership for 2021. We will maintain our efforts on your behalf to promote and enhance the heritage, vitality and regeneration of the town over the next 12 months.
7.00pm Tuesday 30 March: Huddersfield Civic Society AGM.
You will have received papers for the AGM in the past week. I hope you will be able to join us – the meeting should not take more than an hour. Here are the details for logging in to the virtual meeting:
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:
Access it by clicking here.
7.00pm Tuesday 20 April: New Manchester Buildings – the good, the average, the ugly. A zoom tour with Jonathan Schofield.
Almost 100 people logged on for the truly inspiring presentation by Nathan Cornish from Urban Splash for our joint annual lecture with the University of Huddersfield.
Our zoom ‘tour’, led by one of Manchester’s most successful guides, will be a fitting complement to this, providing a chance to see and the good and not so good developments that are rapidly transforming the dynamic centre of the city.
Booking details to follow.
Two planning matters have dominated our discussions and highlighted a number of serious concerns over the past few weeks:
Castle Hill Restaurant with Rooms and Event Venue
HCS Committee Secretary, Martin Kilburn has been relentless in pursuing the HCS request for the application to be called in by the Secretary of State following Kirklees Council’s approval of the application, as reported in previous updates.
Incredibly, as a result of numerous emails and Freedom of Information requests Martin received a message from Historic England’s Inspector of Ancient Monuments for the NE and Yorkshire at the end of February stating: “We have not been officially informed that the application was referred to MCHLG and we have had no contact from their case work staff.”
Further pressure has, at last, resulted in this response from the case officer from the MCHLG: “I have taken over this planning case from my colleague Chris Bazley-Rose and note your email to Martin Kilburn regarding the above application. I confirm that MHCLG are still considering this case and would welcome your comments regarding the proposal.”
Martin’s request for call-in on behalf of HCS, was submitted in early November 2020 - that’s over 4 months ago. It was just last week the case officer contacted Historic England whose responsibility it is to ensure the protection of such monuments!
Former Kirklees College Site
Equally worrying was the decision by Kirklees Strategic Planning Committee to approve proposals on the former Kirklees College site. Watching the debate, I was very concerned at the way officers recommended approval, emphasising the difficulties the Asset Management Company, who own the site, had in making the development viable and the overall ‘public benefit’ gained from approving the scheme.
Let’s be clear, the site is an eyesore and the listed buildings including the 2* former Infirmary have been left deteriorating and subject to vandalism. Looking at the approval, the most likely part to be developed is the Lidl supermarket, described by one councillor as ‘looking like a cowshed’.
What is, perhaps, most disturbing is that the officer’s report actually states: “As a result, no funds have been allocated to undertake the conversion works other than to make the building wind and water-tight.”
This means there is no clear phasing for the refurbishment of these historically important buildings, the residential development at the northern part of the site, which has also been criticised, is in outline only, leaving a supermarket of questionable design being the only ‘public benefit’ to be realised with some confidence. Ironically, should Lidl move in it is likely to vacate its present building which includes the frontage of the former Grand Picture Theatre/Ivanhoes, leaving yet another vacant and visible site on the ring road.
Other Planning Issues
We deal as well as we can with other planning applications and enquires that may be of interest or concern, especially those in Conservation Areas (Huddersfield has 11 designated areas) and work affecting listed buildings. Over the past month issues have varied from the conversion of vacant commercial space into small flats to concerns regarding the historic pottery kiln at Salendine Nook.
If you live in a Conservation Area and would like to help us comment on applications that may be of concern, please let us know. We really do need support in these areas of work.
HCS Consultation with the Local Authority
Our varied workload brings us into weekly contact with Kirklees officers, ranging from highway engineers, conservation officers, regeneration officers (especially in response to Blueprint and Heritage Action Zone issues) and other council services.
While we hope to be seen as critical friends with the council and value efforts made by officers to engage HCS in consultations and updates, we have certain issues and concerns, particularly in relation to the following:
Large housing sites (see Examiner article, https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/dont-risk-costly-appeals-turning-20092428).
Before Christmas we responded in detail to the Quality Places consultation about which we have heard no more. It is increasingly worrying that public concerns regarding developments may sometimes be set aside against the need to meet targets set down in the Local Plan.
Conservation Areas (Edgerton in particular) where there is a gradual attrition of key characteristics which, in the case of Edgerton, appear contrary to the CA Appraisal.
Conversions - mainly town centre - to convert commercial premises to residential. On the surface something to support but what we are seeing is a growing number of minimum standard flats which are of questionable quality. However, we know the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, is reviewing Permitted Development Rights PDR rights making it easier for such developments to take place without the need for planning approval.
Vacant listed buildings - St. Andrews Church, Leeds Road; Newsome Mills; Oakes School and (obviously) the former infirmary (see above), and the fact that they are being left to deteriorate, subject to vandalism with developers then claiming conversion is no longer viable. Developers have robust methods for valuing buildings and the risks associated with their conversion and should be subject to stringent enforcement if they are left empty and vulnerable.
Local centres. While the town centre has suffered from decline, some local centres have thrived with an increasing number of shops, eateries and footfall. Each area has its own problems including congestion and problems relating to inadequate infrastructure, parking facilities and active travel. Even though residents are often as concerned about their local centres as they are about the town centre, few plans appear to exist to provide an overview about how future development should be handled.
Practically, we neither have the capacity nor can we hope to engage officers in all these issues immediately but we will attempt to raise some of these issues with key officers over the coming year.
West Yorkshire Combined Authority
From May onwards we will have a Mayor and a "council" (the Combined Authority) for the whole of West Yorkshire. Even though decisions are being made that affect everyone, at the moment there isn't a way for small organisations and active individual people from across the region to get together.
HCS member Andrew Wilson from Same Skies, the regional democracy think tank for West Yorkshire, is organising an event on April 7th, 6pm-7pm, bringing people together to talk, share knowledge and learn about the Mayoral election and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
There is no doubt that Kirklees is already seeking to secure resources from the WYCA, particularly for significant infrastructure projects and HCS would support the need to ensure funds are not prioritised on Leeds alone. However, chasing the money should not result in Kirklees Council disregarding local views and concerns (such as have already surfaced with proposals for the A629 Halifax Road and the impact on Edgerton Conservation Area).
If Same Skies can bring a wide enough range of people together, it might carry some weight in future decisions.
Should you be interested in attending, this is the registration for zoom:
Former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content Andy Hirst has now officially taken on the role of Website Editor and has already helped ensure news, events and other information is being regularly updated. We welcome your comments either to our website or on Twitter @CivicSocietyHD.
Huddersfield Railway Station featured on the Yesterday channel programme, ‘The Architecture the Railways Built’ which has provided a fascinating glimpse into a variety of railway buildings across Britain and abroad. The programme, at 8.00pm on Tuesday March 16, focused on the station clock as well as visiting the art deco Midland Hotel at Morecambe, beautifully restored 10 years ago by Urban Splash.
And, if you are interested in modern architecture, you can join an event, Brutal North: An Exploration of Brutalist Buildings in the North of England at 7.30pm, Thursday 18 March, co-hosted by Wakefield and Bradford Civic Societies and Leeds Civic Trust. Tickets are free and open to all through: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/brutal-north-an-exploration-
A group dedicated to talking up Huddersfield and attracting investment to the town has been working behind the scenes during the coronavirus pandemic to ensure 2021 will mark the start of a remarkable recovery.
Sir John Harman, chairman of Huddersfield Unlimited, has outlined three real areas for potential growth and investment in the town in the coming months and years.
Huddersfield Unlimited is made up of business people and well-known names from the town including entrepreneur Ken Davy and University of Huddersfield Vice-Chancellor Prof Bob Cryan, anxious to tell the world about opportunities in the town and attract investment here.
Sir John predicts that the town has some great opportunities to drive recovery in 2021.
He said: “2020 has been a tough year for business and Covid has definitely slowed us down, but during 2020 the board of Huddersfield Unlimited and members of our expert working groups have continued to work behind the scenes on the building blocks of recovery.”
Huddersfield Unlimited has spotlighted three key opportunities for Huddersfield:
Sir John said: “The Government is making decisions on transport infrastructure, but especially rail which will make a huge difference to Huddersfield as a place to invest. We continue to press for full electrification of the TransPennine line and we are working constructively to that end. Rail improvements need to be linked to investment in the station area to help kickstart its revival.
“The council has an ambitious blueprint for reshaping the town centre and is prepared to invest public money, but that won’t be nearly enough. We have brought together a team of commercially experienced property people who are giving their time to help promote town centre opportunities to investors and this expertise is ready to work with the council.”
Sir John added: “2020 has seen a golden opportunity emerge with the plans for a health innovation campus on the ex-sports centre site at Southgate. I congratulate the university and the council for coming together to make this site available. It entirely supports our own work on Huddersfield’s opportunities in the growth of the digital economy over the last year.
“We can have a competitive advantage in medical technology with several key firms already in the area and a good research base. We’d already identified this as a growth opportunity, but the announcement of the new campus doubles up on that and it will create a cluster of new businesses around it. This for us is a magnet for new investment.”
If Huddersfield wants to reinvent itself it must "dare to be different."
This is the advice from the man behind one of the most forward-thinking urban regeneration companies in the north of England.
Nathan Cornish is group board director of Urban Splash, a Manchester-based company with nearly 30 years success as innovators in regeneration and regrowth in industrial buildings and towns across the UK.
He was the main speaker at Huddersfield Civic Society’s annual joint lecture presented by Huddersfield Civic Society and Huddersfield University’s School of Art, Design and Architecture and the subject of his talk was After 2020, how do we continue to regenerate and attract people to places like Huddersfield?
Nathan asked why some towns and cities are successful in reinventing themselves but others are not and talked about what makes a building or a town centre somewhere that people want to come, live, work and enjoy.
He could give no simple answer to that big question for us in Huddersfield but suggested a combination of collaboration between stakeholders, deciding what we want to make Huddersfield ‘tick’, working with great designers, daring to be different and following a true public/private partnership. Above all, we should have a clear vision and strong leadership to ‘try and be like Huddersfield’.
Nathan said it was notable that successful regeneration looks to involve whole districts rather than individual buildings and that making a community involves multiple uses in the same area, rather than the traditional segregation of areas for residential, commercial and retail.
Urban Splash is a Manchester-based company with nearly 30 years success as innovators in regeneration and regrowth in industrial buildings and in towns across the UK.
Nathan showed examples from South Shields to Plymouth where former mills, factories, warehouses, docks and decayed housing had been reinvented as new urban communities where people want to live, work and relax.
Lister Mills in Bradford was one of several examples of the successful conversion of listed former Victorian mills and warehouses to accommodate modern homes with ground-floor commercial units. Park Hill flats in Sheffield provides an interesting example of conversion now underway of rundown 60-year-old public housing into a mixed-tenure estate made up of homes for market rent, private sale, shared ownership, student accommodation and social housing.
Not many years ago we might not have imagined that a successful businessman would now bemoan that there are no more mills or warehouses left to convert around Manchester city centre.
More than 100 Huddersfield Civic Society members, university staff, students and civic guests watched the lecture online via Zoom on Tuesday, March 2.
Professor Adrian Pitts from the University of Huddersfield led a short celebration to mark 100 years of architecture being taught in Huddersfield before the main speech.
The decision by Kirklees Council to approve the planning application for the former Kirklees College site (Strategic Planning Committee, February 24, 2021) reflects badly on a council that aspires to make Huddersfield a great place to live by creating high quality spaces and breathing life back into our historic buildings.
Framing one of Huddersfield’s most important listed buildings, the Grade 2* former infirmary occupying one of the most conspicuous gateway sites around the ring road, the application comprised a single storey supermarket facing the ring road, conversion of the infirmary and adjacent listed buildings and large-scale residential blocks at the northern end of the site.
Committee members were, in fairness, placed in an invidious position, dealing with an application that one member said was ‘far too complicated for such an important site’. The application was part detailed, part outline, with an extensive number of plans and alterations since being submitted in 2018, making it almost impossible to determine how to deal with the complexity of a hybrid application. In truth, the application should not have been accepted in the first place.
Understandably, concerns were also voiced regarding the increasingly vandalised and deteriorating state of existing buildings, including the listed structures.
However, these issues should not have been an excuse for an outcome that does little to enhance the image of the town nor protect buildings of significant architectural merit, which are included on Historic England’s national register of buildings at risk.
Despite a lengthy debate and calls for the application either to be refused or deferred, the outcome was to approve the application.
So, what has been achieved?
The most likely element of the application to be constructed is the supermarket. Described by one member as ‘looking like a cowshed’, it was agreed that improvements to the elevational details and use of natural stone should be made conditional.
Other than that, the building is a poor reflection on the council’s ability to promote high quality architecture, especially for such a visible gateway site. Recent years have seen a number of high quality developments around the ring road – on the university campus and the sports centre, which have received awards in the Civic Society’s annual Design Awards. As one councillor remarked about the supermarket design: “I am totally underwhelmed by it.”
As for the new build residential blocks, officers explained why they were unable to separate these outline proposals from the overall application and parameters had been set, even though both Historic England and the Civic Society have voiced grave concerns with regard to their height, position and impact on houses along Portland Street, within a designated Conservation Area.
Perhaps, though, the greatest concern is that no priority or timescale has been given for the restoration and re-use of the Infirmary and adjoining listed buildings. The applicant has purely indicated a sum for ‘patching up’ the Infirmary and measures to protect it from vandalism.
In other words, apart from the supermarket development, nothing else is likely to progress, if at all, for some years to come. Ironically, should Lidl move to this new site it will presumably, vacate its present site on Castlegate, leaving the building and impressive frontage of the former Grand Picture Theatre/Ivanhoes on Manchester Road, vacant and at risk of vandalism.
Officers, indicating that they have worked closely with the asset management company that owns the site and submitted the application, made much of the problem of viability and emphasised the need to balance the protection of the listed buildings with the ‘substantial public benefit’ from development of the site.
It appears that, apart from demolishing vacant and vandalised buildings (hint to developers – a useful tactic for gaining planning permission is to ensure anything on site becomes a public eyesore), the only ‘public benefit’ gained from a site, vacant since 2014, is a supermarket of little architectural merit.
From the time this site was sold to Wednesday’s committee decision there’s a lesson to be learned by the council in delivering high standards of development, protecting the town’s heritage and promoting the image of the town for its long-term economic health. As it stands, the current outcome is a sad reflection on Kirklees’ ability to achieve any of these objectives.
Chairman, Huddersfield Civic Society
7.00pm Tuesday, March 2: Joint HCS/University of Huddersfield Annual Lecture.
‘How do we regenerate and attract people to towns like Huddersfield?’ will be the theme of an online presentation by Nathan Cornish, Group Board Director of the award-winning regeneration company Urban Splash.
Full details including how to book to join this event for free via Zoom on the story below this news update.
7.00pm Tuesday, March 30: Huddersfield Civic Society AGM.
If you would be interested in becoming an HCS Trustee and joining our committee please contact me. We are always keen to have new blood to support our many initiatives.
Agenda, minutes of the 2020 AGM, Annual Accounts and Chairman’s Report will be sent out in mid-March.
7.00pm Tuesday, April 20: New Manchester Buildings – the good, the average and the ugly.
A zoom tour with Jonathan Schofield.
Booking details to follow.
Mid May: HCS Workshop: Residential Development.
Details to follow.
Further to the HCS request for the application to be called in no decision has yet been made by the Secretary of State and we understand the application is ‘stuck in the system’. This is of concern since the lack of momentum may imply limited recognition of the considerable opposition to the proposals.
Following extensive pressure and consultation, Kirklees Council is to install a night barrier at the base of the Castle Hill access road. Thanks to our Committee Secretary, Martin Kilburn, who also chairs Castle Hill Civic Associates, for co-ordinating both the call in of the application development and pressing for the urgent installation of the barrier.
Former Kirklees College site
An application for the re-development of this site, which includes the grade 2* former Huddersfield Infirmary and other listed buildings was submitted in 2018. Major concerns were voiced by HCS (see HCS web site ‘Planning’) and many others raised concerns about aspects of the development, including the Georgian Society and Historic England, the public body charged with the responsibility for protecting historic buildings. Major amendments have been made to the initial application and, importantly, listed buildings adjacent to the Infirmary are now to be retained.
The application is now to be considered by Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee on 24 February.
There remain a number of concerns. Firstly, the impact of new buildings adjoining the Conservation Area along the northern site boundary. The officer’s report states: “The outline part of the site to the north does not include details of appearance. The visual material submitted with the application is for indicative purposes only.” It is to be hoped that there will be careful consideration of these concerns when details are submitted.
Secondly, it is critical that any approval includes conditions with regard to the phasing of development. It is imperative that, given the length of time these historic building have been left to deteriorate, they are dealt with as a matter of priority. It would be unacceptable to discover that elements of the new build are prioritised, delaying restoration of the listed structures or that they are left vacant and abandoned should the developer be unable to complete the whole redevelopment.
Without knowing how this development may proceed if approved, Kirklees Council must ensure that every effort is made to prevent further deterioration and vandalism to the Infirmary and other listed buildings on the site.
High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) Cultural Programme
The bid to Historic England for financial support towards cultural activities around the HAZ and town centre has now been submitted. Those elements relating to the Discover Huddersfield programme include new trails covering Irish and South Asian heritage, textiles and a major revision of the University Campus Trail.
Streetscape Improvements - St Peter’s Gardens
As a further element of the town centre Blueprint, initial ideas are being developed regarding the upgrading of St Peter’s Gardens. Although the society supported the restoration and improvement work to St Peter’s Parish Church (winning the HCS Design Award in 2014), concern had been voiced about the creation of a car parking area for church use. This received planning permission in autumn 2020.
I have liaised with the recently appointed vicar of Huddersfield, the Revd Canon Rachel Firth, and myself and colleague Sylvia Johnson were pleased to discuss initial thoughts with KC landscape architect Isabel Whitworth. A steering committee of interested parties is now being established.
Collaborative working between HCS and Huddersfield Unlimited, chaired by Sir John Harman, has developed further through a “transport and connectivity working group” which will consider and promote the case for improved transport and broader connectivity to help underpin the future success of the town, seeking to work with other like-minded groups in and around Huddersfield and, where there is shared interest, in the wider sub region and the north.
The working group will focus on a number of themes led by an overview: Long term connectivity and transport needs of the town. The themes are: rail strategy; cycling and walking strategy; roads, parking and policy; bus and mass transit strategy.
As mentioned in previous updates, Robert Cockroft, who has developed the HCS web site into an outstanding example of its kind, is soon to step down.
However, I am delighted to announce that Andy Hirst, former Head of Content at the Examiner will be replacing Robert as our Website Editor on March 1. Andy, a corporate member of the society, now has his own PR business (https://ah-pr.com/) and has recently supported the launch of a Huddersfield news website - http://www.huddersfieldhub.co.uk/.
Thanks to all those who have paid their annual subs. For those who have still to pay please forward your cheque (payable to Huddersfield Civic Society) to our Treasurer:
Michael Barron – 11 Prestwich Drive, Fixby Park, Huddersfield, HD2 2NU;
Or: Bank Payment- Sort Code: 20-43-04, Account no. 50525022 (Please use your surname and postcode as reference.)
Should you wish to comment on any of the above matters please let us know.
David Wyles, Chairman
An expert in urban regeneration is to reveal how Huddersfield can make itself more attractive as a place for people to live and work.
Nathan Cornish is group board director of Manchester-based regeneration company Urban Splash which has created more than 5,000 new homes and 1.5 million sq ft of workspace in over 60 regeneration projects in towns and cities across England.
The company’s motto is Rethinking Our Cities so it’ll be great to hear Nathan’s thoughts on Huddersfield. He will talk about what drives successful regeneration and regrowth in old industrial buildings and towns such as Huddersfield but also reveal why some towns and cities are far more successful at this than others.
The talk will be the annual lecture organised by Huddersfield Civic Society and the University of Huddersfield on Tuesday, March 2, at 7pm and members will be able to see it on Zoom which can be booked by going to:
Please click here for more information about the talk and visit Urban Splash for more on its residential, commercial and regeneration projects.
The many recent announcements on transport in the North were discussed by the executive committee of the Yorkshire and Humber Association of Civic Societies.
The discussion, prompted by concerns of the Huddersfield Civic Society, is reported in the winter edition of Civic Voice, which may be downloaded, below.
Other issues covered in the newsletter include a view on Yorkshire devolution, an update on Dales development and the revamp of Ossett Civic Trust.
Following the HCS’s request for the application be called in by the Secretary of State we are still awaiting news. A number of serious accidents have occurred on the access road to the hill in recent weeks and we feel that these dangers will be exacerbated if development is allowed to go ahead and traffic volumes increase.
High Streets heritage action zone cultural programme
Positive news has been received from Kirklees team leader, Town Centre Conservation and Design. The owner of most of the shop fronts on the section of John William Street has appointed an architect to submit a grant application for shopfront improvements. Those shops not participating are now subject to enforcement action. We have long been advocating for improvement
Work on the George Hotel is progressing with the removal of asbestos. A conservation architect and structural engineer are expected to be appointed soon to prepare schedules for external and internal repairs to the fabric.
A further report calling for the full electrification of the trans-Pennine railway line has been welcomed by Huddersfield Civic Society.
The report, ‘Rail Needs Assessment for the North and the Midlands' (December 2020) produced by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), has suggested that by prioritising regional links the government can maximise its return on rail investment.
It follows the ‘unambiguous support’ of the Secretary of State for Transport, reported in our news item Government acknowledges the case for TransPennine rail electrification.
Kirklees Council has published proposals for rejuvenating New Street and Cloth Hall Street, key elements within the Council's Blueprint for the town centre.
The links at the foot of this story provide an opportunity to view images of the intended improvements, including details about street furniture, lighting and paving, plus a chance to join public consultations on December 16 and 17.
HCS chairman David Wyles with HCS Executive Committee colleagues, Chas Ball and Martin Kilburn welcomed the opportunity to view the proposals a few weeks ago.
The story behind the development of Huddersfield first suburb is told in a new book by a local historian, David Griffiths.
Highfields: a Most Handsome Suburb, published today by Huddersfield Civic Society, has been written as a companion to his book The Villas of Edgerton. Once again he paints a picture of a distinctive and architecturally significant area, acknowledged today by its Conservation Area designation.
The text is complemented by the pictures of Andrew Caveney, of Creative Digital Photography, and a variety of images, maps and photographs, sourced from local and national archives.
A planning application for ' improvements' to the Halifax Road (A629) in Edgerton, Lindley and Birchencliffe is due for approval in the New Year. This film illustrates the shortcomings of the council’s plan.
The background to the story: In 2018 Kirklees Council revealed proposals for improvements to the A629 from its junction with Blacker Road at Edgerton to the M62 junction. The scheme is to be funded by West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA).
At our December meeting, Jeff Keenleyside of Greenstreams, presented the ambitious proposals to create a nature park covering the enormous assets of the rivers Colne, Holme and Calder areas in Kirklees.
Combining the shared vision of Greenstreams, River Holme Connections, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and others, he outlined ideas for taking the 3 Valleys Nature Park project forward and how it will benefit the whole community.
The full story may be read here.
We welcome the opportunity to comment on four guidance documents published by Kirklees Council in October as Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD), which it hopes 'will encourage a higher standard of design of residential developments in the area'. The are:
We note a government summary of the purpose of SPDs:
'Supplementary planning documents (SPDs) should build upon and provide more detailed advice or guidance on policies in an adopted local plan. As they do not form part of the development plan, they cannot introduce new planning policies into the development plan.
Victoria Tower, Castle Hill picture by Vinny Tyrell
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