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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Kirklees bids for £83m to improve towns, villages and rail travel

Four Levelling Up bids have been signed off by the borough's MPs

Council chiefs in Kirklees are bidding for more than £80m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund to improve towns and rail routes in the borough.

Private sector funding would push the final figure towards £100m. Huddersfield, Batley, Marsden and the Penistone line, which links Huddersfield with Sheffield, would all benefit.

Leader of Kirklees Council, Cllr Shabir Pandor, described each of four separate bids as “transformative” for the economy and said they showed “the scale of our ambitions” across the district.

He added: “They can provide jobs and opportunities for decades to come. It’s investment like this that offers the best protection against future cost of living crises.”

Retained and remodelled annexe of Huddersfield Open Market as seen from Byram Street. (Image: Kirklees Council)

The bids, which have been signed off by the borough’s MPs Mark Eastwood, Kim Leadbeater, Jason McCartney and Barry Sheerman, are:

BATLEY: Town Centre Regeneration Project – around £12m

Improvements to the town centre including significant changes to Commercial Street, which would move away from being a thoroughfare dominated by car traffic, with improvements to the public realm as well sustainable transport routes.

An attractive socialising space would be created here, which should increase footfall to local businesses and improve access to Tesco.

A new events space would also be created in front of the town hall to host market days as well as other events. This style of flexible events space has already worked well in Huddersfield.

The plans also cover regenerating the disused former JMB Bargains store on Commercial Street so that it can be brought back into regular use.

HUDDERSFIELD: Northumberland Street Regeneration Project – around £18m

A new, improved market on the site of the existing Open Market, restoring the Grade II* listed building, creating a new open market structure, and making improvements to the surrounding public realm.

The council said: “The new market would be vibrant and sustainable, focusing on high-quality independent traders, and with a great food and beverage offer.  It would also drive footfall to other town centre businesses and help strengthen Huddersfield’s evening economy, acting as a catalyst for further regeneration.”

The Grade II* listed market would be restored and refurbished to become a new indoor market consisting of nine food and drink outlets, stalls for fresh food and dry goods, and a large shared seating area for more than 300 people. A new outdoor structure would be created between the listed building and the Tesco car park, which would provide more than 60 market stalls under a new open market structure.

If this bid is successful the council would be looking to complete the work in 2025.

How Marsden New Mills could look under new proposals to regenerate the site. (Image: Kirklees Council)

MARSDEN: New Mill Redevelopment Scheme – £5.6m with a further £11.7m to be contributed by private sector partners.

This bid aims to bring Marsden Mills, a long-vacant historic mill complex that stands in the town centre, back into use.

Plans include retaining the mill’s façade with the remainder of the building being partially demolished to create a new building, which would support both local businesses and the town centre.

The council said: “The new structure, once completed, would include commercial units and office space, with a potential for residential units on the top floors, all surrounded by beautiful landscaping and encompassing an attractive new courtyard. The historic façade would remain a key feature.”

If the Marsden bid is successful the project will be led by private sector organisations with support from the council.

PENISTONE: Rail Line Upgrade – just under £48m

This project would support “significant improvements” to the line’s infrastructure, enabling trains to run more frequently and making rail travel a more viable option. It links closely with Kirklees Council’s green agenda, as the authority looks to provide sustainable alternatives to travel by car.

The council said: “The funding would allow for an extra rail line to be added to sections of track between Huddersfield and Barnsley, which would address issues with capacity as currently only one train can run on the route at once, currently causing regular delays. This would make the line a more attractive option for commuters, and improve access to employment, leisure and cultural attractions.”

If this bid is approved, the council would also work with Northern Trains and Network Rail to make improvements to stations and waiting facilities, and look at ways the speed limit could be increased on the route.

Work would tie-in with upcoming improvements through the TransPennine Route Upgrade.

The government’s Levelling Up Fund (LUF) is designed to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK. A total of £4.8bn is available to bid for, with the aim of supporting town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets.

Kirklees Council’s four bids will be considered completely independently, and more than one could be awarded funding. The Penistone bid was previously rejected.

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