The restored £20 million George Hotel will be the “best in town” and will celebrate all that’s great about Huddersfield, a council meeting heard.

The revamped hotel, which will become an upmarket Radisson Red, will have themes and décor that reflect Huddersfield’s heritage, past and present.

On Tuesday Kirklees Council’s Cabinet gave the go ahead for the £20 million restoration of the Grade II*-listed building and a deal will be signed with the Radisson Group.

The meeting was told that the revamped George Hotel will be on a par with Radisson Red hotels at Heathrow, Glasgow and Liverpool. The Liverpool hotel has Liverpool themes throughout including artwork depicting The Beatles.

The Liverpool hotel is expected to open within the next month and Cabinet member for regeneration Clr Graham Turner told how he and council officers had visited Liverpool and met with the CEO and vice-president of Radisson Red.

Clr Turner hailed the plans a “game changer” for Kirklees and said: “I had the pleasure, along with the project team, of going to Liverpool last week to see the new Radisson Red and to meet the CEO and vice-president.

“These are seriously busy people and for them to take the time out to meet and chat to us demonstrates their commitment to this project.

“I can assure you they are as excited as I am to be involved in breathing new life into what is probably Huddersfield’s most iconic building.

Clr Graham Turner

“As the George sat rotting away with no clear plan for its future who would have thought that one day it would join the ranks of a highly-regarded and successful international hotel chain?

“So who stepped up to save it? This ambitious Labour administration, a public sector body stepping in where the private sector had failed. We had the vision, commitment and ambition to save the George Hotel. And now that ambition and commitment is starting to bear fruit.

“We have a well-planned but ambitious timeline and a costed budget that will deliver a finished project in a little over two years.”

READ MORE: Shocking images of the decay inside the George Hotel

The cost of construction will be £16.6 million and fees and overheads will take the total investment to £20.2 million, which will be borrowed by the council.

Annual financing charges are estimated at £788,000 (if interest rates are 3%), £942,000 (4% interest) and £1.1 million (5% interest) with the council set to earn £900,000 a year. That means the income is expected to cover interest payments at lower interest rates.

Current interest rates for council loans from the Public Works Loan Board are around 4.3% but have been as low as 3% in the last six months and as high as 5.5%.

The meeting was told that income from the operation of the hotel – rooms will cost an average of £80-£90 a night – would be used to service the debt. The aim was for it to be self-financing by early 2025.

Clr Turner added: “Of course, this is a relatively expensive project but the level of work required to redress the years of neglect does not come cheap.

“Once it’s up and running it will be cost neutral as there will be a positive income stream for the council which will cover the cost of interest on the capital.

“It’s been clear that Huddersfield needed a high quality hotel for a number of years and by bringing the George back into use we will meet some of that need and save the George for future generations.

“Not only will it wash its face over time but it will bring huge economic benefits to Kirklees. We will see new jobs and career opportunities with a major multi-national company. The local supply chain will benefit along with local businesses and the local council will own a valuable asset.”

The George Hotel closed in 2013 and Kirklees Council bought it for £1.8 million in 2020. A council report says the hotel will be worth around £15 million once completed.

Repair work is currently underway and construction on the hotel could start in June 2023 with the hotel due to open in November 2024.

When the council bought the hotel the plan was to house the National Rugby League Museum to mark its historical status as the birthplace of the sport.

However, the council was forced to pull out when it became clear the hotel wouldn’t be viable unless it had at least 90 bedrooms. The hotel only had 60 when it closed in 2013.

Clr Andrew Cooper (Green, Newsome) said the George was one of Huddersfield’s iconic buildings along with the Railway Station and Castle Hill and he asked how the Huddersfield brand would be maintained within the hotel.

Clr Turner said Radisson was prepared to work with the council on a local brand. A rival hotel group had a 6-inch thick ‘rule book’ of what the new hotel should be like.

“The one thing that set Radisson apart was that one of the other operators, they came with a book this thick because they wanted it to be exactly the same as in any other country,” said Clr Turner.

“They just wanted a standard hotel so when you woke up in the morning you wouldn’t know whether you were in Dubai or Huddersfield – all right it might have been a bit warmer in Dubai!

“Radisson, to a degree, give you free rein. The Liverpool one is themed around Liverpool. The Beatles and Abbey Road, the rooms are all referenced to Liverpool.”

On the way back from Liverpool Clr Turner and the project team were bouncing ideas around.

“We had a conversation on how do we make each room individual,” he said. “We were Googling famous people from Huddersfield, famous products from Huddersfield, so we already have ideas.

“It gives us flexibility rather than working to a 6-inch book of ‘you must do this, you must do that.’ We can tell the story of Huddersfield. We can do that cleverly.”

Clr Cooper also asked about remembering the George’s connection to rugby league, founded in the hotel in 1895.

“Obviously the RL museum ship has sailed and that’s not going to happen anymore,” he said. “But how are we going to pay homage to the history of rugby league within the hotel and how will we ensure the birthplace of rugby league is recognised?”

Clr Turner replied: “We do have some ideas but we will save that for later!”

Simon Taylor, the council’s head of town centre programmes, said the hotel scheme was a major part of the £250 million Huddersfield Blueprint regeneration.

He added: “Bringing into town an international hotel operator is just the tonic the town needs at this moment.

“We will be producing and building the best hotel in town and restore that excellent Grade II* building to its former glories. It’s an asset for now and it’s an asset for the future.”

The hotel will have the equivalent of 20-30 full-time staff and 250 jobs will be created during the construction.

Clr Paul Davies, Cabinet member for corporate services, described the deal with Radisson as a “massive vote of confidence” and added: “The aim is for it to be self-financing. This is not a white elephant. It’s not something that the council will be paying out and paying out.”

Council leader Clr Shabir Pandor said: “It’s amazing that we are going to get this up and running by 2024 on the back of one of the most challenging economic times.

“The Government has completely crashed the economy but in Kirklees it shows that we are prudent, visionary and ambitious but we are very careful with how we handle taxpayers’ money and, at the same time, we are open for business.”

Where Radisson Red fits in the Radisson Group brand