By Tony Earnshaw | LDRS
A multi-million pound entertainment complex within Huddersfield’s Kingsgate Centre is to get underway thanks to a £7m loan from Kirklees Council.
The authority has agreed to lend developer WD Limited the capital required to create what’s been described as the “much awaited leisure expansion” at the shopping centre.
The cash – previously reported to be £7m – will come from the council’s Property Investment Fund – a £25m war chest to put towards regeneration in the borough.
The council previously authorised a loan from the PIF, which was created in 2018, to help kickstart the transformation of Huddersfield’s former Co-op building at the south end of New Street into 140 student flats.
News of the Kingsgate development marks the latest stage of the so-called Huddersfield Blueprint – a £250m masterplan to regenerate and rejuvenate the town centre.
It follows the purchase by the council of the iconic 19th century George Hotel and the 1970s Piazza.
The Kingsgate Centre expansion will include a cinema to be run by The Light, a bowling alley, restaurants and other leisure facilities.
The council hopes that alongside the pre-existing shops the new development will encourage more people to visit the town centre.
Work will start on the new scheme in the summer of 2021, and is due to be complete by the end of 2022.
Senior councillor and deputy leader of the council, Clr Peter McBride said the Kingsgate scheme formed “a significant part” of the regeneration planned for Huddersfield.
He described Kingsgate as “the anchor” for the town’s shopping offer and that the planned new leisure facilities would “enhance” the nearby cultural heart redevelopment.
He said: “Offering the loan to the developers means we will see the project take place in a shorter timeframe, which in turn will provide much needed economic benefits for the town.”
In June 2019 planners approved a rooftop “sky bar” for Kingsgate as well as an external corkscrew slide that would transport customers from the bar to the cinema foyer.
Creating the new Light cinema involves the re-design of the existing House of Fraser store within Kingsgate.
The lower ground floor will be sub-divided into four restaurants, escalators will be removed and replaced with a staircase and elevators, and the nine-screen cinema will be created on the upper level.
The roof terrace “sky bar” will be developed on part of the mall’s existing roof.
Developer WD Limited expressed gratitude to the council for its support and excitement at the prospect of bringing a cinema to the heart of the town.
Keith Pullinger, CEO of cinema chain The Light, said the company was “thrilled” to be part of an “exciting venture” in Huddersfield.
The council said the loan funding is provided on equivalent commercial terms and ensures the authority will cover its own cost of borrowing and is inclusive of an appropriate risk contingency.
It said that the nature of the Property Investment Fund means that the council can fund priority capital schemes that meet wider strategic regeneration benefits “in a way which a purely commercial lender may not be prepared to do as part of their overall risk assessment of proposals”.