CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
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.
Victoria Tower, Castle Hill picture by Vinny Tyrell
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