A think tank is urging Kirklees Council not to become blinkered over plans for the proposed £210 million Cultural Heart.
As consultants get to work on detailed plans for the Piazza area of Huddersfield town centre, Same Skies is calling into question some of the assumptions being made.
The Piazza Centre has become home to a thriving ‘cultural quarter’ as Huddersfield Art Gallery has moved into empty shop units.
Other arts organisations have also taken vacant shops as part of the Temporary Contemporary initiative and exhibitions staged in the Piazza over the last few months have proved really successful. These included the Worst Record Covers exhibition which secured national media coverage.
Huddersfield-based Same Skies says the regeneration longed for by Kirklees Council is already taking place and should be nurtured, not crushed.
The latest plans for the Cultural Heart mean demolition for the Piazza Centre. The existing Queensgate Market would become a food hall and home to a new library, which would have an extension.
The current library building will become a museum with potentially a modern extension like a “big glass cube.”
A new gallery would be built opposite and there would be a 2,200-capacity music venue and a multi-storey car park on the site of the demolished Market Hall car park.
Same Skies wants the council to explore creating a ‘Piazza Arts Centre’ and says it has the evidence to show its already working with some audiences having trebled.
Andrew Wilson, co-director of Same Skies, said: “Our report proves that the Piazza Arts Centre is already doing what the Cultural Heart idea hopes to achieve in 10 years’ time. Why not explore both options side-by-side?”
As more details of the Cultural Heart proposals emerge, the think tank is calling into question the assumptions on which it is based.
Further research by Same Skies has found that the proposed music venue will be in direct competition with the Academy in Manchester and the 02 Academy in Leeds.
“Manchester is one of the most famous music cities in the world and it already has a venue the same size as the one proposed for Huddersfield, as does Leeds,” said Mr Wilson.
“Trying to compete with the two biggest cities in the north of England is a surprising strategy with obvious risks.
“Why not start by asking a different question? What can Huddersfield offer which is complementary to Leeds and Manchester? That way the town can make the most of its strengths, which are its people and its connectivity.”
Based on the evidence in the report, the think tank wants to see a fully developed alternative plan for the area covering the library, the Piazza and Queensgate Market. They want a range of options presented to the full council and the wider public for discussion.
Same Skies has stressed that their report does not criticise Kirklees Council for planning to invest in Huddersfield town centre but says their plans are the only ones “based on facts rather than artists’ impressions.”
Mr Wilson added: “These are decisions that will affect Huddersfield people for at least 50 years. We want to see a range of options on the table and then a public discussion, led by councillors from all parties, about which is best and why.”