An official ground-breaking ceremony has taken place with work well underway on the site of the first building on the University of Huddersfield’s £250 million National Health Innovation Campus.

The new Daphne Steele Building, on the site of the former Huddersfield Sports Centre in Southgate, will become home to the university’s Health & Wellbeing Academy, run by the School of Human and Health Sciences.

The new building, likely to cost in excess of £60 million, will boast world class teaching and research facilities and will also have clinics for such as podiatry and physiotherapy open to the public. Eventually the campus will have six buildings and a 240-space multi-storey car park.

Named after the UK’s first black matron, the building is expected to lead innovation in health care across the North of England and be a centre for training NHS staff, paramedics and social workers.

Guests at the ground-breaking ceremony on Wednesday included Health Education England’s chief nurse Mark Radford, Clr Graham Turner, Kirklees Council’s Cabinet member for regeneration, and Mayor of West Yorkshire Tracy Brabin.

They were all joined by university vice-chancellor Bob Cryan and deputy vice-chancellor Tim Thornton along with John Phillips, regional director of construction firm BAM, and Andrew France, of Huddersfield-based architects AHR.

With spades now in the ground, construction is expected to be completed in 2024. The project has also received a grant of £5.8 million from the Office for Students.

The National Health Innovation Campus (NHIC) will work to improve the health of people across Yorkshire and the Humber who have high levels of obesity, the third lowest life expectancy for men and women and the second highest rate of deaths in infancy.

Speaking at the ceremony, Prof Cryan said: “We are excited to break new ground on a project that promises to make a hugely significant and long-lasting contribution to the health and wellbeing of people in the Yorkshire and Humber region.

“We are honoured that such an important facility is to be named after Daphne Steele, and we thank the Steele family for graciously allowing us to be associated with her.”

Mayor Brabin said: “It was really exciting to be here to see the ambition for the National Health Innovation Campus. It’s also delightful to see that Daphne Steele is being commemorated, which also shows the project’s ambition for equality and inclusivity.

“We want to make sure that everybody in West Yorkshire has access to the great jobs the NHIC will generate and it will help to close the health inequality gap in our region by having a well-trained workforce.”

Tracy Brabin and Prof Bob Cryan

Mr Phillips added: “Our long-standing partnership with the university has seen us deliver so much of its developing estate.

“It means a great deal to us to be able to work with the university again and it is the strength of that collaborative partnership that solves problems and makes for high standards in quality and sustainability.

“Our track record here in Huddersfield means we care about its people and its communities, so providing opportunities for them and local businesses is important to us.

“We have already teamed up with HD1 Fitness, across from the site, to provide health and wellness support to our local workforce, and we’re donating new showers and changing rooms for their gym.”