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The Halifax Regeneration Story
November 27, 2017Article by Paul Avery
A Rare Opportunity
Medium-sized regional towns only have a chance every 75 years to do the kind of thing that Halifax is attempting. What has already been achieved is undeniably impressive, but all stakeholders – including residents, councillors, local businesses, and private investors – are committed to taking it further still.
A combination of fortunate timing, dedicated local players, hard graft, and the unlimited potential of the town’s historical assets has brought a range of integrated redevelopment schemes forward in recent years. Wins on the board so far include:
- The £19m reopening of Piece Hall – once the UK’s trading hub for fabrics, now a beautifully restored central piazza offering a meeting point, open air cultural venue, and reams of boutique shops and cafes
- The transformation of Dean Clough Mills from one of the largest carpet factories in the world into a cluster of offices, galleries, and sophisticated bars and restaurants – with 4,000 jobs, more people are employed at Dean Clough now than in its heyday
- The addition of a new independent cinema, restaurant, and bar to the Square Chapel arts centre
- A £10m new central library wrapped around a Georgian church spire
- A modern multiplex, hotel and leisure complex on the edge of the pedestrianised centre
- The Orange Box performing arts centre, complete with rooftop skate park
The ‘Piece Hall Effect’
The reopening of Piece Hall is the undisputed pièce de résistance of Halifax’s recent growth cycle and the core around which other elements of the new cultural quarter radiate. But it also acting as a catalyst for the next stage of the town’s reinvention.
As Halifax was once the key textile town of the 19th century and one of the focal points of the industrial revolution, before drifting from glory during the Thatcher era, it is fitting that Piece Hall has become the essential symbol of its rebirth.
Opening day footfall reached 22,799, and 50,000 welcome brochures that were supposed to last the summer ran out in the first week as locals showed their support and first-time visitors had their eyes opened to all that Halifax has to offer.
Quality of life has always been Halifax’s USP, and as more out-of-towners drawn by the new tourist attraction have come to appreciate the community feeling, breath-taking countryside, connectivity, and relative affordability of the town, local estate agents have dubbed a surge in new buyer enquiries the ‘Piece Hall effect’.
But Piece Hall, Dean Clough, and other landmarks are creating momentum among funding bodies and private investors too.
The regeneration of Halifax in recent years has reached a tipping point: the success of completed projects is attracting even more funding to cascade into the town, further improving quality of life and economic opportunities for residents, and leading to yet more investment.
Just the Beginning…
The next stage is focused primarily on lifestyle and access. Despite having just 9% of the population of the local combined authority (akin to the Leeds City Region), Calderdale received 15% of its growth deal funding because the council had schemes ready to go immediately. Much of the £1bn West Yorkshire transport hub will go to improving local road infrastructure.
In particular, the A629 is to be completely engineered so that it splits to circumvent Halifax on both the East and West sides, reducing congestion on intercity routes, but also offering an enormous opportunity to further pedestrianize the town centre. Halifax keenly grasps that infrastructure is not just for motorists – proper planning can also provide the safety and green space that are so important for enhancing the ‘liveable’ reputation the town has earned. £20m is to be spent on the town centre project alone, including a modern overpass connecting it to Pellon Lane and Calderdale College.
Other upcoming works include:
- A major £40m project to renovate Halifax railway station, including a modern station building, third working platform, improved pedestrian access and car parking, and restoration of the historic station building for commercial purposes – at masterplan stage
- Leeds Beckett University business incubation centre at Piece Mill, offering central office space, mentoring, and research and training programmes – to be complete in 2017
- A new leisure centre between the town centre and Dean Clough – due early 2018
- A 1,000-student sixth form college on the site of the historic council offices – opening for the September 2018 intake
- Future retail development sparked by Halifax’s improved tourist offering and planned increase to the student population in the town centre
The overarching theme is development that suits the sense of what the Halifax community wants to be: lifestyle-oriented, blending the old with the new, focused on skills, enriched by the surrounding countryside, well-connected, and sustainable. Momentum shows no sign of slowing and the future of Halifax looks increasingly bright.
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