Kirklees Council is in negotiations with Boots and WH Smith’s to keep the big-name retailers in Huddersfield town centre when the Piazza Centre is demolished.

The Piazza, bought by Kirklees Council for £3.25 million, is to be knocked down as part of the £210 million Cultural Heart regeneration.

Tory deputy leader Clr John Taylor asked a question about what discussions were taking place with major stores, such as Boots and WH Smith’s, to help them relocate elsewhere in the town centre so they didn’t decide to just “cut their losses and leave.”

In reply Cabinet member for regeneration Clr Graham Turner said there were “numerous conversations going on” about surrendering leases and “deals had been done with some of them.”

He added: “WH Smith and Boots are multi-nationals and these can be challenging conversations. I can assure you there are negotiations ongoing with both those parties, and discussions around compensation as well, which are commercially sensitive.”

Kirklees Council has plans to bring some “historic” empty buildings in Huddersfield town centre back into use as residential.

Tory leader Clr David Hall asked Cabinet to re-visit the blueprints for Huddersfield and Dewsbury to make sure there was enough provision being made for residential development in the town centres.

Clr Turner said: “There’s a paper coming in the next couple of months about some proposed redevelopment of the town centre for the first phase of residential, which is a really exciting project.

“We are just finalising the details of that paper now. Yes, we will do all that we can to ensure that some of our really historic buildings and really interesting buildings that have no current use are brought back into use as residential.

“Watch this space. There’s some really exciting things being developed as we speak.”

Later in the meeting, Clr Turner told how the council was working with not-for-profit co-operative housing provider Thirteen Group to build new affordable homes for rent on five sites in Fixby, Cowlerlsey, Dewsbury, Batley and Hartshead.

He added: “We are already working with them on other projects I have already mentioned.”

New homes are planned for disused buildings in Huddersfield town centre such as here in Albert Yard

Kirklees Council is working on a bid for cash from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund for a re-development of Huddersfield Open Market.

Under questioning by Lib Dem leader Clr John Lawson, Cabinet member for town centres, Clr Eric Firth, said markets in Huddersfield still had a big future despite plans to close Queensgate Market as part of the Cultural Heart redevelopment.

Clr Firth said a handful of traders from Queensgate Market were to relocate to the Northumberland Street open market and the long-term plan was to create a combined new market. Previously the council has said this would be based around food and events.

Clr Firth said a Levelling Up bid “has just been signed off by the Huddersfield MP which will be submitted to Government when the portal opens. We have a number of bids oven ready to go in.

“We have complete faith in markets and we want to invest in Northumberland Street market going forward.”

Kirklees Council wants to ensure local people benefit from the economic boost provided by the massive £1.5 billion TransPennine Rail Upgrade, which will transform rail travel with the biggest investment in infrastructure in a generation.

Clr Eric Firth said the council was partnering with Network Rail and added: “We have been talking about how we can bring Network Rail into our skills project.

“Some £1.5 billion will be spent over a few years and planning applications are already being submitted.

“It’s really important that we get behind this and that the communities in Kirklees that will be affected gain some benefit. It’s vital they do.”

Kirklees Council has put £5 million from its own budget to help people with the cost-of-living crisis

Council leader Clr Shabir Pandor said: “We need to address the cost-of-living crisis. We cannot solve this global problem at a local level but we can put local solutions in place.

“We are putting £5 million to support households from our own budget. We have supported 68,000 individuals in recent months, that equates to 38,000 families and 16,000 children and that figure is going up as we speak as more young people slip into poverty.

“I was talking to a nurse and she said to me: ‘Shabir, I can’t afford to live.’ I said: ‘What do you mean?’ She said: ‘All my money is spent in going back and forth to work.’

“Although she lives in Dewsbury she travels to Pinderfields (in Wakefield) and it costs her over £100 a week to put fuel in her car.

“On the back of that the price of food and basic commodities is going through the roof. And this is a nurse and we are short of nurses and frontline staff and a couple of years ago we were clapping for our nurses.

“I will do everything I can to push the Government through the Local Government Association, with other local authorities, irrespective of what party because we are all facing the same problem. There’s got to be a bigger solution.”