By Andy Hirst, Special Correspondent

If Huddersfield wants to reinvent itself it must dare to be different and work with great architects to make bold visions a reality.

One of the ways to regenerate a whole area is to ‘think big’ and mix residential with commercial and retail.

That’s the advice from the man behind one of the most forward-thinking urban regeneration companies in the north of England.

Nathan Cornish is group board director of Urban Splash, a Manchester-based company with nearly 30 years success as innovators in regeneration and regrowth in industrial buildings and towns across the UK.

He was the main speaker at Huddersfield Civic Society’s annual joint lecture live on the internet and the subject of his talk was After 2020 how do we continue to regenerate and attract people to places like Huddersfield?

Nathan asked why some towns and cities are successful in reinventing themselves but others struggle and talked about what makes a building or a town centre somewhere that people want to come, live, work and enjoy.

He could give no simple answer to the big question as to how Huddersfield can reinvent itself but suggested a combination of collaboration between different organisations, deciding what is needed to make Huddersfield ‘tick’, working with great designers, daring to be different and following a true public/private partnership. Above all, the town needs a clear vision and strong leadership to ‘try and be like Huddersfield’.

St George’s Warehouse behind Huddersfield Railway Station

Nathan said it was notable that successful regeneration looks to involve whole districts rather than individual buildings and that making a community involves multiple uses in the same area, rather than the traditional segregation of areas for residential, commercial and retail.

One potential scheme in Huddersfield could be the huge Grade II-listed St George’s Warehouse next to Huddersfield Railway Station which has been empty since the 1970s.

In 2019 Kirklees released a 10-year vision called Huddersfield Blueprint and within that said  “the lower levels of St George’s Warehouse can be converted into a car park with the upper floors converted into office space, apartments or a hotel. This will make better use of this site and connect the warehouse to the town.”

Huddersfield Civic Society chairman David Wyles said: “Nathan’s talk was truly inspiring. Huddersfield offers some superb opportunities for partnership working with companies like Urban Splash, such as the railway warehouse, town centre sites and areas along the canal and riverside.

“Schemes incorporating mixed uses and a range of residential accommodation to suit all levels and age groups is something Huddersfield truly needs.

“he town has superb links to the region’s biggest cities and is surrounded by outstanding countryside and these types of development can only help drive the regeneration and vitality so urgently needed.

“Given a number of senior Kirklees officers and councillors attended the presentation let’s hope this acts as an incentive for creating the joint working required to achieve these opportunities.”

Huddersfield town centre has many buildings ripe for regeneration

Nathan showed examples of Urban Splash’s work from South Shields to Plymouth where former mills, factories, warehouses, docks and decayed housing had been reinvented as new urban communities where people want to live, work and relax.

Lister Mills in Bradford was one of several examples of the successful conversion of listed former Victorian mills and warehouses to accommodate modern homes with ground-floor commercial units.

Park Hill flats in Sheffield is another example of conversion now underway of rundown 60-year-old public housing into a mixed-tenure estate made up of homes for market rent, private sale, shared ownership, student accommodation and social housing.

* Written by former Huddersfield Examiner Head of Content Andy Hirst who now runs his own Huddersfield-based agency AH! PR specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting for business in Yorkshire and across the UK.