Preparation work begins on major regeneration project

Plans to revitalise Wakefield’s Kirkgate area are moving forward this month as part of a wider multi-million pound plan to improve the city centre.

The redevelopment of the area from Chantry roundabout to the ABC cinema site begun this week with preliminary works to prepare for demolition, with a temporary public open space to be created for local residents after this is completed.

Over the next few years, the council plans to bring over 150 more homes and create new green areas to the Kirkgate area of the city.

This is subject to the Government approving the release of funds that it has allocated to Wakefield via the Towns Fund.

The next stage of the application process will see the council finalising business cases for each project throughout January, with submissions to the government to be made in March 2022.

Chantry House has now been cleared and a planning application for 50 new homes is expected in spring 2022 with work expected to start in 2023.

This next phase of the council’s wider city transformation plan will see the creation of a further 100 new homes via the Kirkgate Innovative Neighbourhood Gateway (KING) project.

Preliminary works for the demolition of the derelict ABC cinema have begun. This will be completed by May, followed by temporary public open space being created for local residents, by the summer.

Discussions are underway to re-locate existing retail business in the block and to demolish the units over the next 18 months, while keeping the historic Harewood Arms pub.

Some of the funding for the Kirkgate projects would come through Wakefield Council’s successful bid for £24m from the UK Government Towns Fund, which is also being used to support several projects for its city regeneration plans, at the old Westgate Station and the upgrading of Bread Street.

Councillor Denise Jeffery, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “We are pleased we are at the stage where we can move forward with the next stage to progress plans to improve the Kirkgate area, which is a key gateway to the city.

“If the Government approve our application to the Towns Funds and release funds, we’ll be able to develop these ambitious plans.”

Cllr Darren Byford, cabinet member for economic growth, regeneration and property, said: “The demolition of the ABC building supports our plans to regenerate the area and bring additional investment to Wakefield and it is great to be looking forward to the benefits this will bring for our city and district.

“We are supporting investment and change for our city centre as well as boosting the wider district’s economy. It is a very positive stage to be at, as we continue to work with our partners and plan regeneration.”

The council’s wider transformation plan for Wakefield features the repurposing of the former BHS store to bring more council services into the city centre – including a new museum and gallery – and the second phase of the redevelopment of the Rutland Mills site, with support totalling £20m from the Levelling Up fund.

Other emerging plans for the city centre include the opening of Tileyard North next summer and the redevelopment of the former Market Hall into a performance and exhibition space.

There are also plans to transform the Civic Quarter on Wood Street into a thriving neighbourhood, with more homes and a new public facility.