CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
CIVIC SOCIETY NEWS
As we head towards Christmas we are again under the shadow of renewed restrictions resulting from the most recent Covid mutation.
However, the HCS committee has been working very hard in relation to a number of initiatives and in ensuring our voice is heard. We remain one of the few organisations that have regular contact with key council officers, especially with regard to the town centre, heritage and transport issues. None of this would be possible without the support of our members who I thank.
Transpennine Rail Improvements
HCS along with partners Huddersfield Unlimited (HU) gave evidence at the recent Network Rail enquiry. Following the detailed submission mentioned in my last update, prepared primarily by HCS committee member Geoff Hughes, Hugh Goulbourne of HU presented our case, complemented by Chas Ball, also an HCS committee member, who spoke on behalf of Kirklees Cycling Campaign.
There has been much controversy following recent announcements concerning the scrapping of the HS2 extension to Leeds and much of the Northern Powerhouse Rail proposal. What the government did agree, however, is ‘the Transpennine route upgrade between Manchester and Leeds will receive “significant upgrades” including electrification of the whole route.’ Perhaps our efforts over the past couple of years are bearing fruit.
Former Kirklees College site
Back in February Kirklees gave conditional approval for the development by Trinity One LLP for the former Kirklees College site which includes the Grade 2* former infirmary.
HCS had raised serious concerns about these proposals and it has been clear that over the past few years since Trinity became owners of the site no protection has been given to the listed infirmary and related buildings which have deteriorated through water ingress and vandalism.
In November, having failed to enter into an agreement with Kirklees which would have seen some urgent works carried out and a clear idea of when the listed buildings would be fully refurbished, officers recommended refusal of the application. Following a presentation by agents acting on behalf of Trinity, members of the Strategic Planning Committee decided to defer the application to provide more time for officers and the developer to reach a compromise.
I have serious concerns about how this can be achieved and my comments have been clearly expressed in a statement on the HCS website news section and in local media news website, Huddersfield Hub.
The developers state that it is not currently viable to restore the infirmary. I do wonder how a further winter of deterioration and vandalism by neglect will help to make the building more viable. Planners and members based their original approval on ‘public benefit’.
At present it is difficult to see this as being no more than a new Lidl supermarket to replace the one a few hundred metres along the ring road.
Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register
Recently Historic England published its annual Heritage at Risk Register for 2021. The Register is the yearly health-check of England’s most valued historic places and those most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development. Sadly, two local conservation areas – Birkby and Huddersfield town centre - appear on this list as does the infirmary building referred to above.
While it is accepted that much is being undertaken in relation to major Blueprint initiatives, eg, the George Hotel, Estate Buildings, markets and Cultural Heart, I remain concerned that little progress has been made in relation to the improvement of shopfronts, particularly those along John William Street and Cross Church Street, despite the potential of significant grants from the council.
HCS has raised the need for both enforcement action and clear guidance for many years and I have, once again, written to officers involved in these issues to express concerns on behalf of the society. In commenting I have said: ‘The low perception many people have of the town centre will not be helped if these shopfronts remain as they are. This in turn could affect footfall which will itself determine rental values and investment.’
The register’s assessment states the condition of both areas as ‘poor’ and the trend as ‘deteriorating’.
New Street Pedestrianisation Improvements
Kirklees landscape architects have submitted a reserved matters application for the erection of three 12m high sculptural features along New Street (application number 2021/94515).
The society objected to these when concept proposals were originally submitted (see the planning section of website) and we have since voiced our reservations to officers dealing with the proposals. One of our key concerns is the ability of the council to maintain these structures given the poor maintenance level of street furniture within the town centre.
We will be seeking further assurances regarding the sustainability and upkeep of these very tall structures and the public is being consulted on these as part of the overall proposals by January 7, 2022.
The recent HCS presentation by Professor Peter Roberts: Kirklees Climate Commission will soon be available to listen to via a link on the HCS website. Those who attended Peter’s presentation would have been struck by the enormity of the challenge, paralleled by the recognition that action is required by all of us in helping meet targets to prevent catastrophic change.
Peter’s presentation indicated that at a local level attribution of emissions generated by sector is as follows: Transport 47%, Domestic Buildings 32%, Public & Commercial Buildings 12% and Industry 9%. The analysis then identified sectors with the greatest potential for reductions in emissions between 2020-2050: Domestic 44%, Transport 31%, Public & Commercial Buildings 18%, Industry 7%.
Such estimates have a significant bearing on our future work, especially in relation to spatial/local plans, active travel, regeneration, reuse of heritage buildings and tree planting/landscaping. We have been strong advocates for improved ‘city’ living, use of brownfield sites, integrated active travel plans, environmental enhancement as well as the repurposing of historic buildings. The Climate Commission’s work will hopefully re-enforce our efforts in these areas.
Joint HCS/University Annual Lecture 2022
Our prestigious annual lecture will take place early in March 2022 and focus on plans for the University of Huddersfield’s £250m Health Innovation Campus which will have a dramatic influence on regeneration proposals for the town centre. Colleague Geoff Hughes is currently liaising with Prof Liz Towns-Andrews, OBE, of Huddersfield Business School and further details should be announced early in 2022.
Following a sell-out season of walks the DH committee will soon begin preparing the programme for 2022.
Walks will again be bookable through Eventbrite and it is likely the first walk of the new season will be an Irish heritage walk to coincide with events in conjunction with St. Patrick’s Day in mid-March.
Two new trail leaflets, Textile Heritage and Limelight and Greasepaint Act 1, are currently being printed and should be available in the next few weeks from local information points.
Design Awards 2021
Only 3 weeks remain for nominations to be submitted for this year’s Design Awards. I hope you will help by nominating developments you feel have contributed towards the built environment and heritage of Huddersfield.
You can find details of how to nominate projects on the HCS website or send details of projects to the Design Awards email: email@example.com. The closing date for nominations is December 31, 2021 for the following categories: Best New Build, Best Shop Front, Best Refurbishment, Best Residential Development, Best Commercial Development and Best Community Project.
As mentioned in my last update subscriptions will be increasing to £12.50 for individual members and £30 for Corporate Members in January 2022. Emails/letters will be sent out in the next week or two and I hope we shall, once again, benefit from healthy membership levels to enable us to continue with our event and work programmes.
If you pay by Standing Order would you please amend your bank instructions and advise us accordingly or, alternatively, forward the SO form to us asap.
Christmas Stocking Fillers
There’s still time to visit our website Publications page and purchase one of our highly praised publications: The Villas of Edgerton, Highfields: A Most Handsome Suburb, the Buildings of Huddersfield and the Old Yards of Huddersfield. Alternatively, copies of most of these publications are available from Waterstones, Huddersfield; the Children’s Bookshop, Lindley or Read in Holmfirth.
Best wishes for an enjoyable Christmas.
This news release from Huddersfield Civic Society was published on the Huddersfield Hub news website.
A £1.5bn railway improvement scheme between Huddersfield and Dewsbury is in danger of being a missed opportunity, it is claimed.
Huddersfield Civic Society (HCS) says the project will do very little to enhance access to Huddersfield Railway Station and there will not be enough car parking.
The society has had input to a planning inquiry into the project which is now running at the John Smith’s Stadium.
HCS says the scheme fails to allow access to the opposite side of the station where the imposing but largely derelict huge St George’s warehouse now stands.
They say this lack of access could have an impact on the viability of the warehouse being redeveloped in the future, including a large open space of land next to it.
HCS chairman David Wyles said: “We think pedestrian access from the station to the land on the other side of the tracks and then on to the Fitzwilliam Street area is very important and to not do it would be a missed opportunity. There also needs to be plenty of cycle storage as more and more people are expected to cycle to the station in the years ahead.”
HCS also says the plans fail to link in with Kirklees Council’s 10-year Huddersfield Blueprint plan to create a thriving, modern day town centre – including the area next to the station and, hopefully, redeveloping St George’s warehouse.
Mr Wyles said that providing access to the town centre over the station – perhaps with a pedestrian footbridge or subway – will make such a redevelopment far more attractive.
He added: “The warehouse seems very disconnected from the town centre now which may be why it has stood empty for so many years and not been redeveloped.”
HCS also says many people are put off from using Huddersfield Railway Station because of a lack of parking – there are now only 28 parking spaces in front of the station.
Mr Wyles said: “If people are to use the railways in significant numbers they need to have somewhere they can park conveniently and cheaply otherwise they will just do they journeys by road instead.”
The scheme will extend the station’s platforms over the John William Street viaduct which will need to be widened and HCS wants to see improved lighting there to make it brighter for pedestrians – similar to what has been done under the Dark Arches on Neville Street in Leeds beneath the city’s railway station.
The main focus of the overall scheme is the electrification of the railway line between Huddersfield and Westtown in Dewsbury with the number of tracks doubled from two to four. The aim is to provide a more reliable railway with more trains, more seats, faster journeys and better connections across the north.
It will cause major disruption though as eight bridges will need to be rebuilt and a new one constructed in Ravensthorpe. Mirfield station will get a major upgrade while Ravensthorpe will get a new station.
A decision on the scheme is due to be made in early 2023 with work possibly starting later that year and be completed within three years.
Victoria Tower, Castle Hill picture by Vinny Tyrell
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