Kirklees Council has been warned it must find more car parking spaces in Huddersfield town centre when work begins on the Cultural Heart regeneration.
Detailed plans are currently being drawn up for a £210 million plan to make the Piazza area the leisure and cultural heartbeat of the town.
The council is planning 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 to replace the one demolished earlier this year.
Car parking will be lost during building work which could last four or five years and the council’s Liberal Democrat leader Clr John Lawson has warned that unless sufficient alternative parking is made available the town centre and existing venues could suffer.
Clr Lawson told a full meeting of Kirklees Council that changes already happening in the town centre had seen older people and those with disabilities struggling to access venues such as the Lawrence Batley Theatre.
Posing the question to the council’s Cabinet member for environment, Clr Naheed Mather, Clr Lawson asked: “How are you going to ensure that our jewels in the crown, such as the Lawrence Batley Theatre, are not worn away over the next four years by a fall in footfall and people just wanting to go elsewhere where they can get from a car or a bus and get to the theatre?”
In her reply, Clr Mather said: “The council is committed to delivering a town centre that is modern and competitive and the Cultural Heart is the centrepiece.
“We are fully aware that this may mean disruption in the short term. Our town centre will be changing rapidly and several of our major projects will inevitably mean that some of the existing parking arrangements will be unavailable for periods of time due to construction.
“Prior to lockdown the council carried out surveys of all car parks in Huddersfield to understand usage and capacity. We know that providing a supply of reasonably priced, attractive and safe car parks within walkway distance of our town centre attractions is one of the ingredients of keeping the town centre vibrant.
“Officers are currently working to ensure residents, existing businesses and visitors are not disadvantaged during the disruption as much as possible.
“We will be making sure that those existing car parks that are under-used are better publicised and better signposted to ensure they are used to their maximum as well as clearly communicating in advance of how changes will impact on people and vehicles getting into and around our town.
“Whilst the project is taking place we will try and replace some of the lost car parking but we cannot replace them entirely. Alternative suitable locations are not readily available.
“We will work with partners and private providers. We are speaking to other car park providers in the town centre where there is the opportunity to increase parking at different times of the day, for example to feed the night-time economy, to make sure the maximum number of spaces are available.”
Clr Mather insisted there were sufficient facilities for people with disabilities around the theatre and added: “We have a small town centre and we want it to remain resilient.
“There’s plenty of parking spaces in the locality and I know for a fact there are disabled drop-off points and parking spaces near there.”