Kirklees Town Centres’ futures are looking positive after Kirklees Council’s Cabinet has officially backed plans to increase funding. They supported plans to allocate £1.5 million each to four of its smaller town centres: Batley, Holmfirth, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton.
The funding aims to support local regeneration to support both short and long term projects. It is hoped that the funding will enhance each town’s unique selling points. In addition, the funding should help the town’s and local economy recover after nearly a year of surviving the pandemic.
The council selected Batley, Holmfirth, Heckmondwike and Cleckheaton because they are the largest Kirklees Town Centres after Huddersfield and Dewsbury. The council also considered them places with a range of business, cultural, leisure and local retail facilities. The expectation of greater local growth in the future also has an impact. Finally, another consideration was looking at places where there is already some form of investment and growth planned.
“Leave no-one behind.”
Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of the Council, commented: “Earlier this year, we set an investment budget that seeks to make sure we recover from the pandemic and leave no-one behind. As part of this, we are looking to invest £6 million to support future growth of some of our major towns.
“The current pandemic is shining a light on local centres with more and more people using and discovering what is on their doorstep. On a positive note, lockdown has meant walking to the local food store to access everyday goods is more commonplace.
“Whilst more people are shopping locally, restrictions and lockdowns have made it harder for non-essential retail and service businesses in town centres across the country. In order to keep supporting our objectives for inclusion and climate change, we need these centres not only to survive the current crisis but also to be strengthened moving forward so that they continue to play an important part in local community life.
“Each local town has its own identity and communities; no one knows their town better than the local community, which is why we want to involve them in this exciting opportunity to have their say on how we spend the money.
“We know that these four towns already have great things to offer, but it is really important that we invest now in order that they can continue to grow as we all recover from recent events and 10 years of austerity resulting in £197m cuts to our finances. These towns were selected due to both their size and their potential to maximise the investment.
“I, for one, am excited to see how plans will develop with input from the local community.”
Town Centres Pre-COVID
The council supported this funding to help recovery but it also considered how town centres were performing pre-COVID.
Batley town centre’s retail sector was performing well, offering expansion opportunities, benefitting the town with more employment opportunities. Batley’s renowned for its number of festivals, events and its regular market. Not stopping there, it has the renowned Bagshaw museum, local art gallery and library too.
Other opportunities for Batley include the government’s Levelling Up Fund. If secured, there is a potential plan for a new highway scheme around Bradford Road and Rouse Mill Lane.
The council highlighted Holmfirth’s position as an attractive tourist destination. Many visiting for the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, local artists and artisans, and links to widely-loved TV shows.
The council’s backing to support Holmfirth with £1.5M will work in unison with separate plans. This includes plans to improve the town’s traffic flow and potential development of its market site and library.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Cleckheaton had a booming and vibrant nighttime economy, a town full of clubs and societies and a strong sense of community. Like Batley, it has a range of popular festivals and events, and each month has a thriving farmer’s market.
Heckmondwike has a strong industrial economy, a town filled with factories and engineering companies, and an industrial economy. Additionally, Heckmondwike has the Diamond Country Park and the Ponderosa Wildlife Centre. The council’s backing to support Heckmondwike with £1.5M will work hand in hand with funding it has already secured for a new bus hub and work to make roads safer and pedestrian and cycle-friendly – supported by the Government’s Transforming Cities Fund.
The work doesn’t stop here to support Kirklees Town centres. The council will continue an ongoing attempt to attract the private sector and government funding to invest in Kirklees’ ambition and positive future. Local people will also be an essential part of knowing how to spend the funding, and local councillors will be consulting local people on how they would like the funding to be spent.