Huddersfield’s Cultural Heart may have been slightly delayed at the start but the completion date for Phase 1 remains the same.

That was the message from Kirklees Council’s regeneration chief Clr Graham Turner as the council’s Cabinet pushed the starting button on a project which will change the face of Huddersfield town centre.

At a meeting on Thursday, Cabinet agreed to release £51.7 million to allow Phase 1 to get underway in 2024.

Phase 1 involves 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.

The council has given the go ahead for “enabling works” to take place from February ahead of a formal construction contract being signed with contractors BAM.

That will mean once the deal is signed, work on the development can start straightaway. The council has promised “spades in the ground” in June or July 2024 with Phase 1 due for completion by the end of 2025.

Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, Clr Turner said: “As we well know, due to the incompetence of the Government’s handling of the economy, we decided some time ago that we would phase the Cultural Heart and proceed through a number of gateways.

“This is the most significant gateway so far. I have asked Cabinet to release £51m to move into the delivery phase. The report also seeks Cabinet approval to start some enabling works to ensure that when the contract is agreed and signed, work on site can begin as soon as possible.

“The main contractor is expected on site in quarter two next year and this is a slight delay on getting on site but does not affect the completion date as some of the changes we have made will mean the project won’t take quite as long to complete as we first thought.”

The Cabinet also approved the first stages of a move towards Phase 2 of the project which will see the former Huddersfield Library building becoming an art gallery and museum.

Work on Phase 2 could start in late summer or early autumn 2026 with completion in autumn 2027, though that could be subject to change.

Referring to the phasing of the project, Clr Turner added: “It does seem like we have been on this for some time now but we have come through a pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis and the meltdown of the economy caused by successive incompetent prime ministers.”

In a statement after the meeting, Clr Turner said: “This has obviously been a hugely challenging time for the council.

“However, we are absolutely determined to deliver a brighter future for Huddersfield and the wider Kirklees borough. 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 as a catalyst for further economic growth.”