The society is backing Kirklees Council in its bid for a share of the Government’s new £675 million Future High Streets fund.
The fund aims to help local leaders transform town centres by consolidating high street properties, improving transport and access and converting retail units into new homes.
The council says that it is looking to secure £25m to create 'a vibrant cultural quarter'. Proposals include a museum, a 'significantly enhanced' library and art gallery, and a new live music venue.
In a letter to Karl Battersby, Kirklees Strategic Director, Economy and Infrastructure, HCS chairman David Wyles says:
"We would entirely support your bid at a time when critical actions and partnership working are emerging to facilitate much needed investment in restoring confidence and vitality in our town centre."
"Besides being the major town in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, Huddersfield is distinguished in a number of ways that highlight the critical importance of support:
"It has one of the highest number of listed buildings in the country – higher than many better known ‘historic’ cities, but the Town Centre Conservation Area was included on on Historic England's Heritage at-Risk Register in 2018. Vacancies, both on ground and upper floors have increased dramatically as has the loss of commercial businesses to out-of-town locations.
"It has a distinguished cultural life including the Contemporary Music Festival, choral society, literary festival etc, but constraints have severely limited (and prevented) the opportunity to pursue joint ambitions for a focus for various cultural and social activities.
"It has a population catchment in retail terms of over 350,000 but is more vulnerable than many towns because of the close proximity to large, out-of -town centres including Meadowhall and Trafford centres.
"The university has grown in stature and provides huge opportunities of mutual benefit, curtailed to an extent by negative perceptions of the town.
"Beyond the above and more we, as you know, are keen to work as a ‘critical friend’ with your teams and have already applauded involvement in work to develop the masterplan, design framework and shopfront improvements.
"We in parallel will provide support and positive messages through our web site and initiatives such as our annual design awards, themed workshops, Discover Huddersfield trails and walks programme etc.
"I hope this provides some indication of why investment is currently so critical and once secured can begin to attract match funding for regeneration from the private sector. "
Three workshops organised by the Huddersfield Partnership have been attended by the society.
The Partnership gives town centre businesses a chance to outline their recommendations for the Business Improvement District (BID).
BIDs are part of the Government’s plan to encourage partnership working between a local authority and the business community. A BID is a defined area which can be developed in towns, cities and industrial estates.
Rate-paying businesses within the area decide on improvements to help transform it – and then vote to agree the investment. If supported by a majority of town centre businesses, the BID will provide income raised through a levy on the rateable value of property.
Depending on the final area chosen, the levy should raise between £346,000- £423,000 a year over a fixed period.
This would be on top of any funding allocated by Kirklees for town centre improvements, providing the businesses with a say in how they feel the money should be spent.
HCS committee member Peter Sargent attends BID meetings on behalf of the society.
He said: "We are at a crucial stage in preparing a draft plan indicating where funds will be prioritised.
"The plan will be launched in May and the ballot of property owners in June. The result of the ballot will be announced in July and, if there is majority support, work on improvements projects could start as early as October 2019."
Fancy an enlightening stroll? Here are some excellent ways to discover Huddersfield on foot.
The 2019 walks' programme produced by the Discover Huddersfield partnership is available by clicking the link below.
It includes 17 walks around the town with themes including architecture, radical history, music and Caribbean heritage.
Walks are also arranged around areas including Almondbury, Birkby and Highfields.
The first of the season is a literary walk (bookable), in conjunction with Huddersfield Literary Festival led by former HCS Chairman, Chris Marsden.
Walks cost £3 – although four walks during the Heritage Open Days in September are free of charge.
The leaflet will be available from local information points, including libraries, railway information kiosk, and the Piazza from early March.
The DH partnership, of which the HCS is a key member, also produces 16 free trails for those who want to discover more about the town.
A proposal to allocate funding for the improvement of shop fronts in the area around St George's Square was agreed this week by Kirklees Council's cabinet.
Huddersfield Civic Society applauds the decision – and we welcome your views on this important topic. An Huddersfield Examiner story on the subject may be found here.
Members have for many years raised concerns about the quality of signage and shop fronts especially along a section of John William Street. They have advocated design guidance to support those wishing to make changes
Civic Society Chairman, David Wyles, said; 'Our Design Awards have not only included a 'Best Shop Front' category but have highlighted poor and often illegal frontages of adjacent properties.
“We have lobbied for enforcement action on the worst offenders but recognise the carrot and stick approach proposed by Kirklees.'
Mr Wyles said that the society had organised workshops to look at issues affecting the town, particularly as towns across the country were having to make radical decisions concerning the future of their centres.
'Owners and tenants of shops and businesses need to appreciate that good design means good business. Visual improvements will not only attract more visitors but more investment' he said.
In the Huddersfield Civic Society Design Awards 2017, the best shop front award was won by Icestone Gelato on John William Street.
The judges said: 'The business is in complete contrast to the many poor shop fronts and often illegal signs along this section of John William Street.
This shop front illustrates how new owners are willing not only to invest in Huddersfield as part of an expanding company portfolio but have done so with brio and flair.
Icestone Gelato has replaced the former Toni and Guy hairdressing salon within a listed group of buildings that form an architecturally and historically important part of Huddersfield Town Centre Conservation Area.
The architect has created a contemporary and functional shop window, with a stylish interior, that immediately reflect the products on sale within.
Kirklees Council has been told it can proceed towards adoption of the Local Plan.
An independent examination by the Planning Inspectorate has concluded that with the recommended modifications the plan is sound and legally compliant.
Its adoption will be considered by councillors at an extraordinary Council meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 2019.
Details regarding the meeting will be published on the council’s website in due course. Meanwhile, the Inspector’s report can be viewed here.
David Wyles, chairman of Huddersfield Civic Society says: "After so many delays the approval of the Local Plan now appears inevitable.
"Since the 1960s, successive strategic plans have resulted in the creep of suburbia, loss of some of our precious green spaces with minimal impact on the provision of affordable homes, issues of sustainability and reduction of vehicular traffic.
"In commenting on the draft plan HCS highlighted the fact that no specific provision had been made for housing in and around Huddersfield town centre.
"While the plan's approval seems a fait accompli it is hoped that attention will be paid to the considerable opportunities for all types of residential provision, that provide more choice, sustainability and higher densities on such sites as around the former sports centre, riverside and swathes of semi derelict brownfield land and vacant property.
"Huddersfield, we believe, should follow the example being set by larger cities and reverse the derogatory image of the 'inner city' and bring back life and vitality to our town centre.
It is in the hands of Kirklees in partnership with the private sector to drive this opportunity forward."
To paraphrase Lord Kitchener, 'Your town needs you'.
That's the message being driven by HCS committee members in the light of recent shop closures and increasingly negative comments in the local papers.
Many of us are proud of Huddersfield and appreciate that it still retains a good selection of shops, restaurants, pubs and cultural activities.
We need to talk up the town, use its facilities and rebuild that sense of pride in its history and future prospects.
Our co-ordination with Kirklees, involvement with the Discover Huddersfield Partnership, Heritage Open Days, Business Improvent District bid and promoting initiatives such as the Design Awards, all help contribute to supporting a healthier, more vibrant town.
A walk around the town centre involving some of our committee members and senior council officials gave a chance to raise important issues.
David Wyles, Martin Kilburn and Chas Ball were joined by Kirklees Strategic Head of Economy and Infrastructure, Karl Battersby, and principal officers from Highways, Planning and Housing and a Kirklees enforcement officer.
Some of the priority actions and longer term opportunities were identified.
HCS Chairman David Wyles said: 'We are pleased that Kirklees officers are responding to our ideas and feeding them into the Town Centre Masterplan, the draft which we hope to be further consulted upon in the near future.'
A newly opened cycling route from Longroyd Bridge to Milnsbridge has increased interest in extending it to the upper valley as well as into the town centre.
The route is funded by City Connect, a programme of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority,
Kirklees Council has commissioned sustainable transport charity Sustrans to scope out options for a Colne Valley 'greenway' route. Key links for cyclists and walkers from the town centre to Longroyd Bridge will be included in the work.
An open meeting at Slaithwaite Civic Hall on February 7, from 7pm to 8.30pm, will hear about future plans for walking, cycling and horse riding routes through the Colne Valley with a chance to air your views.
An ambitious project to capitalise on the town’s rich musical heritage has been welcomed by Huddersfield Civic Society.
The project, aimed at making Kirklees a world-class destination for music, has received nearly £300,000 from the Leeds LEP’s Business Rates Pool fund.
At a HCS meeting in the town hall on September 4, members were given an outline of the plan by Chas Ball, who sits on our committee and on the council's project steering group.
The council announced its commitment to music in a 2016 report. The following year, it announced its ambition for Kirklees to become a place where everyone can hear world-class music.
It is also looking support the next generation of musicians and music professionals to build and sustain careers, by providing access to the best industry advice, career opportunities and performance routes.
The council hopes to bring together local, national and international partners to hold a year of music in 2023 to complement the plans for Leeds City of Culture, expected to take place at the same time.
Council leader Coun Shabir Pandor, said: "We recognise the value of music on a places identity as well as its economic impact. There is a strong tradition of music making in the district with local music organisations being innovative within their approach and punching above their weight individually.
"We need to build upon this to promote the area, bring communities together, and give our creative industries a boost. The recent successful bid for money from the business rates pool is the first of what we hope to be many bids that bring funding into the district to deliver on our ambition for music.”
A new landmark building which gives the town a ‘wow factor’ was among the best new buildings constructed in the town last year, according to readers of the Huddersfield Examiner.
They voted the AHR-designed Oastler Building at Shorehead their favourite in the Huddersfield Civic Society Design Awards, but it wasn’t the overall winner. That honour went to the The Graham Cooksey Building at Greenhead College, designed by Fuse of Leeds.
The winners in several categories were revealed at the awards ceremony at Huddersfield Town Hall.
The judges said of the Oastler Building, part of the University of Huddersfield campus: “What could be more appropriate for the Examiner Readers’ Award than, perhaps, the most distinctive building to have been erected in the town since the John Smith’s Stadium was constructed in the mid 1990s?
“The eye-catching Oastler Building complements a number of new buildings, all of considerable quality, to create a hub of activity and diversity creating a ‘wow’ factor for those coming to the university and town.
The building, home of music, humanities and media, makes effective use of ashlar stonework on its Queensgate façade while the striking jettied glass and steel frontage to Shorehead is sub-divided by distinctive vertical fins. Within this frame are teaching facilities, research space, lecture theatres and offices.
Of particular importance is the high level of environmental sustainability, the building achieving an ‘excellent’ rating from BREEAM, the world’s leading sustainability rating scheme.”
Two awards went to the Graham Cooksey Building at Greenhead College: Best New Development and Overall Winner.
Which buildings do you think have contributed to Huddersfield’s built environment and deserve to be celebrated? Please go to our Design Awards page to complete the nomination form.