Timescales have been revealed for the start of works on Phase 1 of the £262 million Our Cultural Heart in Huddersfield town centre.

Phase 1 will be the refurbishment of the former Queensgate Market which will become a food hall.

A new library will be created in the existing east wing of the building with a glass-fronted extension built on. Both the food hall and library will open out into a new public square, which will host events and gatherings.

Kirklees Council’s Cabinet will be asked to release £51.7 million from the budget of £262 million to allow Phase 1 to get underway.

A report to the Cabinet meeting on December 21 says that final design work isn’t due to be completed until March or April 2024.

The final contract – including the cost – hasn’t yet been agreed with construction firm BAM and that isn’t likely to happen until May or June 2024. Once the deal is finalised work will start on site in June or July 2024.

However, the council is keen that BAM start “enabling works” as soon as possible to ensure completion isn’t delayed.

The “enabling works” include asbestos removal, strip-out work, the early order of materials, utility disconnections and site set up.

The report says these works will cost £1.1 million and the council wants them to start in February or March 2024, even though the final contract has yet to be signed with BAM.

The latest plans for Phase 2 of Our Cultural Heart would see a new art gallery and museum combined in the former Huddersfield Library building.

The report says the budget for the new art gallery and museum will be £36.6 million. The art gallery was previously going to have its own building in Queen Street and discussions remain underway over that vacant plot.

Talks are still ongoing with Greenhead College about a further education facility but other alternatives include a hotel or residential.

Clr Graham Turner, Cabinet member for finance and regeneration, said: “The proposals in the report are a very significant step forward for the project.

“The allowing of some enabling works to proceed in advance of the agreement will enable the project to proceed quicker.

“As we have always made clear, there is a budget that is agreed that we won’t go over, despite the challenges created by rising inflation and interest rates.

“This has obviously been a hugely challenging time for the council financially and we’ve had to make some very difficult decisions in recent months.

“However, we are absolutely determined to deliver a brighter future for Huddersfield and the wider Kirklees borough.

“We have a number of transformational projects in the pipeline – including those we’ve recently secured Levelling Up funding for.

“We remain 100% confident and committed in our belief that investment into Huddersfield town centre is the right approach. Standing still will only be detrimental to our town’s future and long-term prospects.

“The capital to deliver Our Cultural Heart has long been ringfenced and the business plan is extremely robust.

“It will increase the number of visitors to our town centre, safeguard key heritage assets, create new job opportunities, enhance our green credentials and act a catalyst for further economic growth.”

Clr Turner said he expected “spades in the ground by the middle of next year.”