Kirklees Council say they have assembled a “world class” team of architects and designers to deliver Huddersfield’s £210 million Cultural Heart but admit it comes with a big financial risk.
The ambitious plan – which will involve the council borrowing money at a cost of £6 million a year – will see the area around the existing Piazza centre become a “vibrant cultural hub of leisure, arts and music.”
The council’s Cabinet has agreed to push ahead with the drawing up of detailed plans for a new 2,500-capacity entertainments venue, an art gallery, a new food hall, a new library, a museum and a multi-storey car park.
Under the council’s preferred option the existing library and art gallery would become the Huddersfield Museum taking over from Tolson Museum and the art gallery and library would move into the current Market Hall building.
The entertainments venue – known as The Venue – would be new build as would the food hall.
The council’s director of regeneration David Shepherd told Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting that a “world class” team of consultants had been assembled.
This was led by award-winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, who he described as the “best of the best.”
The engineers Arup had an international reputation and strategic development partners Turner & Townsend were also involved in many high-profile projects. Credits for the team include The Shard in London, the Piece Hall in Halifax and Sheffield city centre’s ‘Block H.’
Mr Shepherd told councillors: “I want you to be assured that we have the best possible team and they are excited about working in Huddersfield to deliver a project of distinction that will be up there with the best of their work.”
Detailed plans will now be drawn up and they are likely to be presented to Cabinet in July with a “four or five-year construction.”
Tory group leader Clr David Hall said while the project was very exciting he was “nervous” about the costs involved.
“It does seem to me that £200-odd million is a great deal of money which is going to cost an awful lot in terms of borrowing at a time when there is rising inflation and when interest rates could rise as well,” he said.
Repayments would be £6 million a year and Clr Hall added: “We must make sure we can provide services as well as service debt.”
Cabinet member for corporate, Clr Paul Davies, said the Cultural Heart would provide a “hub” and pull for people to visit the whole of Kirklees.
“It will create Huddersfield as a destination regionally, nationally and internationally if we get this right,” he said. “This is just a hub. It’s an opportunity to pull people into the whole of Kirklees.
“This is probably the most important initiative we have. It’s crucial to a vibrant future.”
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for regeneration, said the figures involved were “huge” and described the scheme as the “biggest thing for Huddersfield in anyone’s lifetime.”
He added: “To ensure that money is spent properly we have engaged consultants who are the best in the country. It’s a big risk but it’s a very thoughtful risk. There’s also a risk not to invest in our future. We have prudently and carefully been daring.”