A makeover for Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 21:33 14 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:07 20 February 2013

Statue of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson in St George's Square, Huddersfield. Photograph  by Mike Kipling

Statue of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson in St George's Square, Huddersfield. Photograph by Mike Kipling

The busy West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield is set for a multi-million pound makeover. Jo Haywood reports PHOTOGRAPHS: LEO ROSSER

With an incredible 1,660 listed buildings - the third highest number in the country - it's easy to see why Huddersfield was once hailed as 'the Athens of the north'. The name quite rightly implies a sense of history, heritage and architectural depth. But it also gives the negative impression of a town with its sights firmly set on the past which, in Huddersfield's case, couldn't be further from the truth.

This popular Kirklees market town has big plans for the future. And they don't get much bigger than the multi-million pound Queensgate revival scheme. The council-led project takes in the market hall, multi-storey car park, the former Co-op store and adjoining buildings on New Street.

Among its ambitious aims are a new library, art gallery and information centre, a three-storey department store and additional retailing, a 100-bed hotel, 100 residential units, a new market hall, bars and restaurants, up to 900 parking spaces and improved public open areas.

'The Queensgate revival project will further establish Huddersfield as one of the region's top shopping, commercial, business and leisure centre,' said Councillor Ken Sims, cabinet member for regeneration. 'The site is in the heart of the town and is badly in need of modernising, refreshing and improving through this unique development.

'Queensgate is key to the wider regeneration of the area. Consultations on the scheme showed overwhelming public support for it, and for our wider ambitions to take the town and the Kirklees area forward with a modern, vibrant, robust and thriving regeneration programme.'

Work is already underway in a separate scheme to improve the town's historic open market, with the focus this year on food. Recent work on the 120-year-old building has included a new floor, the installation of modern shutters and the replacement of every pane of glass in the roof. Now eight new units dedicated to fresh local produce have been installed and, by the end of the year, the market will have a new 'caf oasis' with five eateries around a central communal seating area.

Lord & Son, which was established in 2003 with the aim of restoring the humble pork pie to its rightful place in the hearts, minds and tums of the people, was due to open a new Take & Bake concession in the market at the end of April.

'For too long the pork pie has suffered at the hands of the supermarkets and garage forecourts whose supply chain logistics and price-driven specifications have rendered the product unrecognisable from its original form,' said John Lord, whose son Tony is in charge of the Huddersfield shop. 'Those that remember long queues trailing from the pork butchers in the high street and eating freshly cooked pork pie will know what we're all about and will recognise the feeding frenzy that happens when we open the oven door and sell its contents in less than five minutes.'

But modern Huddersfield is not just about retailing. The town is also known for its award-winning festivals and has a growing reputation in the arts. There is a lot on offer in terms of entertainment throughout the year from performances by the renowned Huddersfield Choral Society to the annual Food & Drink Festival, the Contemporary Music Festival, the popular Caribbean Carnival, a varied programme at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, an excellent permanent collection of British art including works by Francis Bacon and Henry Moore at Huddersfield Art Gallery, and contemporary photography and media exhibitions at the new Media Centre's TEST gallery.

And then of course there are those 1,660 listed buildings. Virtually every kind of property imaginable is on the list, from quaint weavers' cottages to titanic mills and even the imposing 330m high Emley Moor television mast which can be seen from across Kirklees. Maybe one day, not too far into the future, the new Queensgate development will be on the list too.

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