Plans to build a college on one of the key plots in Huddersfield’s Our Cultural Heart development has been thrown into doubt.
Greenhead College wanted to build a centre to specialise in the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics but has been turned down for funding by the Government.
The college had earmarked the plot in Queen Street which became available when Kirklees Council scrapped plans for a separate art gallery. Instead the gallery and the museum will be housed together in the former library building.
A meeting of the council’s Growth and Regeneration Scrutiny Panel was told by strategic director for growth and regeneration David Shepherd that the Queen Street plot was “one of the best development sites in Huddersfield.”
While funding had been rejected by the Government, the college and the council were still looking at other potential sources of funding. Should the college not prove viable, other suggested uses are a hotel or residential.
The Our Cultural Heart scheme is now being carried out in phases so timescales are flexible. The Queen Street plot isn’t in Phase 1 which will see the former Queensgate Market become a food hall. An extension will be built on to house a new library and outside there will be an events square.
Work on Phase 1 could start in early to mid-2024 with completion in late 2025, the meeting was told.
The whole scheme was originally estimated at £210 million and Mr Shepherd told the meeting that discussions with main contractor BAM Construction were close to settling upon a final cost of the development. And, he added, that final contract sum “won’t be exceeded.”
The panel was also told that because of the phasing of the project, the council had under-spent by £5.6 million and that money could be rolled over and used later.
Clr John Taylor (Con, Kirkburton) was concerned about car parking and access for whatever the Queen Street plot might become.
“Whether it comes forward as the college or residential or a hotel, whatever we end up with, the likelihood is that it would require some car parking,” he said.
“Not only am I not clear where that would be but also the access to that site off the Ring Road isn’t brilliant because you can only get to it one way. If you’re coming from the South when you’re coming into Huddersfield, you’re on the wrong side of the Ring Road.
“If it’s a hotel or something like that, people will be going in the evening for events. How do they get there? And when they do get there, where do they park if they’re coming from out of the district?
“And, of course, in big chunks of the borough, there isn’t any public transport in the evening so they’re going to have to use a car. They can get a bus in but they can’t get a bus home again.”
Mr Shepherd said the full masterplan included a new multi-storey car park on the site of the demolished multi-storey but that would be part of a later phase as the site was needed as a works compound in the meantime.
He said the issue of car parking had been dealt with as part of a Transport Plan submitted with the planning application.
He said the George Hotel, set to open as a Radisson RED, doesn’t have its own car park and hotel operators were happy with that as long as there was sufficient car parking close by.
A report will go to Cabinet in December to approve the launch of Phase 1.