By Andy Hirst
Trees dying in planters in Huddersfield’s landmark St George’s Square and weeds left to grow unchecked in planters outside the town hall are giving a dire impression of the town, says Huddersfield Civic Society.
The problems were spotted by embarrassed Huddersfield Civic Society (HCS) members while hosting a tour of the town for Halifax Civic Trust.
HCS chairman David Wyles is worried that if simple things like this aren’t well-maintained now what will happen to areas that need maintaining once Huddersfield has gone through major changes under its ambitious 10-year Blueprint to improve the town centre. One of these is to have 40ft-high steel planters on New Street.
Mr Wyles, who has previously raised issues about the poor maintenance of street furniture, planters, landscaped areas and vandalism in Huddersfield town centre, said he was shocked by dead and dying trees in planters in St George’s Square and tall weeds filling planters opposite Huddersfield Town Hall.
He said: “We recently hosted a visit by Halifax Civic Trust and one of the first things they noted was the state of the trees. I’m not sure which service is responsible for their upkeep but failure to water and adequately maintain these relatively expensive features does not reflect well on the council’s ability to adequately maintain existing landscaped and planted areas.
“It also reflects the considerable concerns articulated by the society in relation to ambitious improvement programmes, such as New Street. If revenue resources are limiting the proper management and maintenance of existing areas there needs to be an increasing level of attention paid to initiatives being pursued within the Blueprint area.”
He added: “These are just two examples noted recently but, given the trees are in our most impressive architectural area and the planters are at the civic heart of the town, it should have been noted by a Kirklees employee and reported earlier, rather than a member of the public having to raise these obvious management failures.
This problem is exacerbating the increasingly negative image many people have of the town.”
Mr Wyles said he sent an email to senior managers in the council responsible for town centres and the High Streets/Heritage Action Zone and received a holding response stating: “I am directing your query to the correct service within the council to deal with.”
Mr Wyles added: “It is hoped that such issues will be identified and dealt with more efficiently in the future.”
Kirklees Council says it is trying to improve things but added that the recent heatwave had made the problems worse. They hope to have things looking better by the end of the summer.
Clr Naheed Mather, Cabinet member for environment, said: “As a council we have multiple teams that look after general maintenance in Huddersfield town centre and many assets like planters and trees are managed by our partners or by other local businesses.
“Our priority is always making sure that streets are clean and roads are well maintained, for which we carry out regular checks, but beyond this we want to keep the town centre attractive and inviting. We’re currently doing a lot of work behind the scenes to streamline our maintenance services.
“The specific issues raised by Mr Wyles are areas we’ve already highlighted for improvement, but issues like these have been greatly exacerbated by the recent heatwave. These areas should be addressed by the end of the summer.”
Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for growth and regeneration, added: “We have a wealth of exciting projects underway which are set to make Huddersfield a better place to live, work and visit – like the Cultural Heart plans and improvements to New Street, one of our busiest high streets – and in terms of people’s experience of the town centre, the maintenance of public spaces is just as crucial as bringing in new developments.
“We’re working closely with services and partners on this, in line with our big town centre developments which are now starting to take shape.”
* Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR (https://ah-pr.com/) specialising in press releases, blogging and copywriting. Copyright Andy Hirst.