Hugh Goulbourne, a senior commercial lawyer, is chair of Huddersfield Co-operative Party and a business champion for the town. These are his thoughts.
The Huddersfield and Colne Valley Cooperative Party with members of the Huddersfield Town Centre Regeneration Group and other local residents and businesses have tested the health of our high street with a short survey.
Our town centre is doing us proud. The loyalty of our local community plus the hard work and enterprise of our businesses has meant that our town has bounded back well from Covid-19 lockdowns.
In fact we were judged to be the fourth most successful town centre on visitor numbers in a recent national survey.
So, it’s clear for all to see that our town centre is an important intercultural asset that enables community cohesion, enhances civic pride and provides employment, shopping, services and leisure.
That said the picture could and should be so much better. Too many shops are boarded up and vacant, the Piazza Shopping Centre and Queensgate Market are being run down and it remains to be seen what happens to our last proper department store, House of Fraser.
During the past 24 months we have seen the power of mutual aid networks across our town; groups of residents and local businesses that have worked tirelessly to get their neighbours through hard times.
We believe that we can tap into this local spirit of co-operation to make a difference for our town centre.
To do this we need to know who owns the empty property in our town centre so that we can make sure that ownership of key buildings is put back into the hands of local businesses.
We need a more open discussion with our council so that we know who is making decisions about town centre development and why those decisions are being made.
And we want to see our Government putting its money where its mouth is on levelling up by giving local organisations and people the chance to decide what is the best way to spend money on our town centre.
Our local Cooperative Party are going to present all of these points to Kirklees Council, but before we do that we are holding an open meeting next Wednesday January 19 at 7.30pm to discuss these ideas with guest speakers including Barry Sheerman MP.
If you would like to join this meeting or find out more about our council motion then please contact me (email: email@example.com or text: 07786 561030).
You can also help us by filling out our short online questionnaire https://forms.gle/E7K7icVwVj3nmHwQ6.