£2m funding for town’s improvements blueprint

The Huddersfield Blueprint regeneration vision has been given a major boost, with a £2m grant secured to help deliver the George Hotel’s transformation into the new National Rugby League Museum.

Kirklees Council has been successful in its bid to Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone funding.

The £95m Government-funded High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme, which is delivered by Historic England, aims to unlock the potential of high streets, fuelling economic, social and cultural recovery.

The £2m Kirklees has been granted is the largest of any Yorkshire council. It will help fund the refurbishment of the Grade II-listed George Hotel – which is set to become the new National Rugby League Museum – and the former Estates Buildings which is also Grade II-listed.

It is in addition to the £1.4m already secured from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to carry out the first phase of renovation works to the George Hotel.

On 22 September Kirklees Council’s Cabinet approved a £100m investment which will help deliver key town centre regeneration projects as part of the Huddersfield and Dewsbury Blueprint plans.

Councillor Peter McBride, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “With the decline in the retail offer and the continued drop in footfall through most towns, we have to change the role of the town centre.

“In St George’s Square, the National Rugby League Museum will be a real centre-piece for our Huddersfield Blueprint regeneration plans and will draw people into the town from far and wide to celebrate the history of the sport and Huddersfield as a place.

“This building is where it all began for rugby league and it’s something we have to celebrate and hold on to.

“That’s why we decided to buy the building as it’s the only way we could be sure it would be a key part in our future, just as much as it’s a key part of our heritage.

“Heritage is something that runs right through our regeneration plans and this funding will help us to bring these vacant historic buildings in St George’s Square back into use.

“I’m really pleased we’ve already been able to successfully secure such a significant amount of funding to help us deliver this.

“It shows that others have confidence in our vision and what it will bring to Huddersfield and Kirklees as a whole.”

Councillor Naheed Mather, cabinet member for Greener Kirklees, said: “We have bold and ambitious regeneration plans for not just Huddersfield but the whole of Kirklees.

“As we look to build thriving modern-day town centres, a common theme throughout our regeneration plans is that they also celebrate our heritage.

“We can no longer rely on retail alone to attract people to our town centres.

“The George Hotel is the very best example of how we can use our history to help build a successful town centre that’s fit for the future.

“I’m really happy that Historic England recognises what we’re working to achieve and has contributed such a significant amount of funding to help turn this vision into a reality.”

Charles Smith, acting regional director for Historic England in the North East and Yorkshire, said: “Our high streets bring people together.

“They are places to socialise, shop, run businesses and be part of our local community.

“When high streets suffer, as they have done in particular over the past six months, the special character of our historic places and communities suffers too.”

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