Kirklees Council’s regeneration chief Clr Graham Turner hailed a “great day for Huddersfield.”
On Monday, the Government delivered a massive economic boost to the town with not one but THREE huge announcements.
The council’s two Levelling Up Fund bids, worth a combined £65 million, were both approved and there was the announcement of a West Yorkshire Investment Zone which will have Huddersfield’s Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor at its heart.
Clr Turner said: “It’s a great day for Huddersfield and a reward for all our hard work. This will help us create a modern town for the next generation – or two.”
Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove saved his biggest single investment for the Penistone Line which links Huddersfield with Barnsley and Sheffield.
The £48 million scheme is described as a “no brainer” for economic regeneration, speeding up links to South Yorkshire and also opening up connections to the West Coast Main Line and the South West.
Improvements to the Penistone Line will speed up train services while small stations on the route will be upgraded.
The second Levelling Up bid to receive funding was the £17 million Huddersfield Open Market scheme which will see the existing open market building turned into a food hall and a 60-stall market created on the nearby Tesco car park.
The Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor, with the University of Huddersfield’s National Health Innovation Campus at its core, is described as one of Yorkshire’s “most exciting economic development opportunities.”
Now that it will be part of the West Yorkshire Investment Zone there will be financial incentives to attract hi-tech and digital businesses which will bring skilled, well-paid jobs to Kirklees.
Although the market scheme and the Penistone Line investment had previously missed out on funding Clr Turner (above) said he was always quietly optimistic of a positive outcome.
“A lot of hard work had gone in by the council and I think the Government realised our projects were ready to go,” he said.
“These weren’t just ideas in someone’s head, the design work has been done and these are projects the Government realised we can deliver.”
Clr Turner said he had been an advocate of investment in the Penistone Line for 10 years or more and added: “It makes perfect economic sense to link Sheffield to Huddersfield and Leeds, and then connect to the West Coast Main Line and cities such as Bristol.
“This project had the support of the Mayor of South Yorkshire, the Penistone MP and the two Kirklees MPs Jason McCartney and Mark Eastwood. There had been cross-party lobbying for years and it shows what you can achieve when you work together.
“The Penistone Line carries a million passengers a year now but when we have new rolling stock and quicker and more regular journey times you could see that doubling in five to 10 years. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”
On the Huddersfield Open Market project, Clr Turner said: “We have done the design work and we can get the design team back together very quickly.
“If we can get planning permission some time next year then we could start work the following year.”
A political row erupted last week when Dewsbury Tory MP Mark Eastwood questioned the Labour-run council’s financial competency. The council is being forced to make cuts of £47 million by February to stave off bankruptcy.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, PM Rishi Sunak branded Kirklees “not fit for purpose.” Clr Turner said the Government’s investment in Kirklees just days later was clearly at odds with Mr Sunak’s comments.
“Despite what certain people may say we do know what we are doing and we do deliver,” added Clr Turner. “We have a long-term vision and that vision is starting to pay off.
“The economy will come back at some point and, if we put the hard work in and invest now, we will be ready to take advantage when the recovery comes. If we wait, we’ll miss out.
“Huddersfield is the place to be and we are determined to make this a great town.”
Kirklees Council has now had all four of its Levelling Up Fund bids accepted by the Government. The others are £5.6 million for the regeneration of New Mills in Marsden and £12 million for Batley town centre.