Kirklees Council is planning a new enterprise corridor for jobs and economic growth inspired by the University of Huddersfield’s new £250 million National Health Innovation Campus.
The council is set to launch its Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor Masterplan to build on the opportunities created by the new campus and also the £1.5 billion TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU) which will transform rail travel to and from the town.
As the name suggests, the corridor runs from Huddersfield Railway Station – which will undergo a complete internal rebuild as part of the TRU – to the John Smith’s Stadium.
The council describes the Station to Stadium Corridor as “one of the most exciting economic development opportunities in the Yorkshire region and beyond.”
It says the core assets of the scheme will be the TRU rail electrification scheme, the Health Innovation Campus and the stadium but in between there is some of the town’s “most striking architecture and heritage buildings interspersed with under-utilised land and premises. This forms the basis of the strategic case and economic opportunity.”
A report to the council’s Cabinet on December 21 says: “The Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor Masterplan is fundamentally about growing and attracting good quality jobs and businesses in Huddersfield, for the benefit of the whole district and creating an environment that stimulates private sector investment in commercial, office, research and development and residential uses.
“We know that world class infrastructure such as rail connectivity and access to cutting edge, applied university research and skills are increasingly the key drivers for more and more businesses that are looking to grow or expand into an area.
“On this basis the Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor Masterplan will act as a major physical, intellectual and investment gateway into the West Yorkshire region by providing these key ingredients.
“We also know that Kirklees currently suffers from an under supply of good quality employment sites, especially in the south of the district.
“The council is aware of several local employers who are looking to grow that are being frustrated by the lack of available sites.
“The Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor is designed to help address this by identifying new strategic employment sites and by increasing the utilisation of either empty or currently poorly utilised land and property within the corridor area.”
One key plot of derelict land is a former gasworks site in Gasworks Street. It is owned by a company controlled by Kirklees Stadium Development Ltd (KSDL), the company which owns the John Smith’s Stadium.
The future of KSDL – and the future ownership of the stadium – is also on the same Cabinet agenda.
Kirklees Council is set to hand a long-term lease on the stadium to Huddersfield Town and write off historic debts but is likely to want to take ownership of the gasworks land – used as overflow car parking by the stadium for big matches – in return.
The council report says: “The Gasworks Street site forms part of the masterplan area. It represents a significant development opportunity in the corridor adjacent to the University Health Innovation Campus.
“Because it is one of the larger development opportunities it will be integral if the plan is to grow and attract good quality jobs and businesses in Huddersfield.”
The council isn’t being put off by the current economic uncertainty and says stopping work now on the masterplan would be the “wrong option.”
“It is important that we remain ambitious for Kirklees over the long term,” says the report. “Despite the current economic uncertainty, history tells us that we (need to be) on the front foot when funding opportunities do occur.”
The report also notes that in the Government’s latest Autumn Statement while previous proposals for Investment Zones were dropped, the Government remained keen to fund “economic growth clusters” centred around universities in “left behind areas.”
The report says: “At a headline level this would appear to present a significant potential opportunity for the advancement of the Station to Stadium Enterprise Corridor and something that will be monitored closely.”