Plans for the £43 million re-development of the eyesore former Kirklees College site in Huddersfield are still very much alive, the developer has insisted.
Trinity One’s plans to demolish the 1970s college buildings and replace them with a new Lidl store and 229 apartments remain very much on the agenda.
The scheme, which dates back four years, was thought to be at risk as the developer and council planners had failed to reach an agreement over the future of the grade II* listed former Huddersfield Infirmary and two wings at the centre of the site.
The council gave planning permission last February on condition the developer signed a legal agreement over restoration of the listed buildings.
Talks broke down over how quickly the listed buildings would be restored. Kirklees Council wanted the listed buildings restored before the apartments were completed but Trinity One said that wasn’t financially viable.
As the legal agreement had not been signed, council officers recommended refusal of the plans and were asking councillors to issue an Urgent Works Notice to protect the listed buildings from further deterioration.
That meant Trinity One came before a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee in a bid to save the plans they’d worked on for four years.
Richard Irving, a spokesman for Trinity One, told the meeting that the company had spent £600,000 on the planning process so far and there was no question of them walking away.
He said the company had reached an agreement in principle with council planners at the end of April. But then came a “bolt from the blue” in August when the council had changed its position and was demanding full restoration of the listing buildings before the apartments were completed.
Chartered surveyor Paul Fox, development manager for Trinity One, said the council had performed a “complete U-turn” and he was concerned there had been a “genuine miscommunication of the facts.”
He said the developer remained committed to the site and had already invested £3.25 million to this point. If the scheme was approved a further £1.65 million would be invested in securing and demolishing the site and carrying out protection works on the listed building. That work could start in January and take six months.
“If we can’t make it work no one can,” added Mr Fox. “We have tried every which way for four years.
“We are proposing to make an immediate start by investing a further £2m demolishing the eyesore that exists and preparing the site as a regeneration scheme to attract new inward investment. The alternative is that you end up stuck with what you’ve got for years to come.”
Councillors were keen to save the project but wanted the listed buildings secured too.
Clr Carole Pattison (Lab, Greenhead) said: “It’s been a long four years and I do feel there has to be more room for negotiation. We still want a gateway development but we want it with a speedy timescale because there’s so much else happening in the town. We don’t want to go back to square one.”
Clr Charles Greaves (Ind, Holme Valley North) proposed that the decision be deferred and talks between the developer and council officers resumed in order to find a compromise. He suggested putting a time limit of March 24 on the talks but hoped it could be resolved sooner.
Clr Andrew Pinnock (Lib Dem, Cleckheaton) seconded the proposal and the committee unanimously supported it.