Kirklees Council hasn’t ruled out compulsory purchase orders as it counts down to the start of vital work on the £16 million re-modelling of a Huddersfield town centre high-rise block.

Buxton House, between New Street and Albion Street, currently has 57 one-bed flats and bedsits and the council has so far moved out almost half of the tenants.

A planning application was submitted in January 2024 to remodel the building to create 19 two-bedroomed, 22 one-bedroomed and five studio flats.

The council drew up the scheme after a review of high-rise blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. The building does not fully comply with current fire safety regulations and there is a costly 24-hour ‘fire watch’ surveillance in operation to protect the people who live there.

Subject to planning permission and securing vacant possession, the council aims to start work on the building in September 2025.

However, a report to the council’s Cabinet, reveals the complex nature of ownership of the residential, retail and car park block.

The report says that while the council owns the freehold to Buxton House and the associated shopping centre and car park, it granted a 175-year lease on the property in 2012, and that is currently owned by a company called ALB Kirklees Ltd.

The council has two under-leases from ALB for Buxton House Tower and the Albion Street rooftop car park.

The report says: “The acquisition by the council of part of the ALB headlease would give the council full control to create a fire safety compliant building. This is the objective of the scheme.”

The report lists the flats and retail units that need to be secured along with three privately-owned flats bought under the Right to Buy scheme.

The council leases the Albion Street rooftop car park from ALB and wants to shut the car park down completely during the construction works and use the site as a compound. The car park, a pay-and-display car park operated by the council, has 41 spaces.

There’s also a telecoms mast on top of Buxton House and negotiations are underway as to whether that can remain during the works.

The council has warned that failure to secure all the site would “seriously jeopardise” the fire safety scheme and any delay would see costs rise.

Cabinet will be asked on Tuesday March 12 to agree to seek Compulsory Purchase Orders as a last resort should negotiations fail.

The report adds: “As things stand the council is in a vulnerable position. It is compelled by law to make very significant improvements to Buxton House to improve fire safety.

“But under the terms of the Underlease with ALB, their permission is required to undertake any improvement works.

“There are ongoing revenue implications associated with the ‘waking watch’ regime that has been put into place to safeguard tenants’ safety until the building is improved.

“The Underlease itself only has 45 years remaining and would need to be re-negotiated to make the scheme financially viable.”