By Leah Conway –
Huddersfield-based think tank, Same Skies, have called on Kirklees Council to develop and improve the Piazza area in Huddersfield Town Centre rather than go through with its planned demolition.
Last month released a report on the positivity and success of the Piazza area. It has been a cultural hub, especially for the arts, creative and community sectors of the town.
In the report, the think tank proposed plans that the Piazza could become a flourishing arts and community centre. Same Skies want to see an alternative plan to the proposed “Cultural Heart” plans layed out in the Huddersfield blueprint.
Same Skies alternative plan, based on the report’s findings, over ideas to regenerate and preserve the centre rather than destroy and rebuild. The think tank suggests that these alternative plans should be presented to the council alongside the draft blueprint proposals and be up for wider public discussions.
Regeneration and preservation
Andrew Wilson, co-director of Same Skies, stated, “Our report proves that the Piazza Arts Centre is already doing what the cultural heart idea hopes to achieve in 10 years’ time. Why not explore both options side-by-side?”
Same Skies continue to challenge the ‘cultural heart’ proposals and support its challenges with further research. For example, the think tank recently voiced its doubts about making a cultural heart music venue. Such a venue would directly compete with the Academy in Manchester and the 02 Academy in Leeds.
Andrew Wilson continued, “Manchester is one of the most famous music cities in the world, and it already has a venue the same size as the one proposed for Huddersfield, as does Leeds.”
“Trying to compete with the two biggest cities in the north of England is a surprising strategy with obvious risks. Why not start by asking a different question? What can Huddersfield offer which is complementary to Leeds and Manchester? That way, the town can make the most of its strengths, which are its people and its connectivity.”
Open to new ideas
Further questions to the plans have surrounded how cost-effective the £210 million Blueprint ideas are. Same Skies pointed out that the Blueprint proposes the idea of a “big glass cube” for a new gallery.
However, currently, the Huddersfield art gallery is already using Unit 7 of the Piazza Arts Centre. Unit 7 have become a successful extension, and audiences have increased. Therefore, Same Skies challenged, “A new extension is unlikely to increase audiences any more than Unit 7 has done already.
“But it will cost tens of millions of pounds, and it will mean the destruction of the smaller galleries in the Piazza Arts Centre, which are home to some of the most successful exhibitions Huddersfield has seen.”
The think tank also expressed that their opposition and report does not seek to criticise Kirklees Council’s motivation to invest in Huddersfield Town Centre, only that there are alternative and more cost-effective ways to do so.
Same Skies stated that they have thoroughly researched the Piazza Arts Centre’s success and have proposed ideas based on this research and facts.
The organisation insists that being open to gathering a wide range of ideas will benefit the future of Huddersfield and its blueprint.
Finally, Andrew Wilson concluded, “These are decisions that will affect Huddersfield people for at least 50 years.”
“We want to see a range of options on the table, and then a public discussion, led by councillors from all parties, about which is best and why.”