Renovation works begin to revive disused arcade

Work has just begun to renovate Dewsbury Arcade, preparing it for reopening next year.

The arcade has been a focal point in Dewsbury town centre since the late 1800s. However, it has stood empty for more than seven years.

Kirklees Council acquired the building in 2020 – one of the first steps towards its Dewsbury Blueprint plan.

The renovations should enable the arcade to reopen as the UK’s first community-run shopping centre, leased and managed by the Arcade Group – a community business formed specifically for this purpose.

Once renovated, the arcade will have 16 small shop units and four larger units, as well as six upstairs studios which could be used by artists, as office spaces or for events.

The council and Arcade Group aim to fill the arcade with independent local traders, along with a new food and drink offering.

William Birch & Sons, a Yorkshire-based company which specialises in working with heritage buildings, has been hired to restore the arcade.

Works are being funded by £4.5m from the National Heritage Lottery Fund, grants from the Dewsbury Town Board and West Yorkshire Combined Authority, support from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, and capital funding from the council.

The work will take about a year to complete, with plans in place to reopen the arcade by summer 2025.

David Shepherd, strategic director for growth & regeneration, said: “Local people have already shown how important the arcade is in Dewsbury town centre, by supporting the Arcade Group’s endeavours so passionately last year.

“This makes it even more meaningful to see work starting onsite, knowing we’re bringing a piece of Dewsbury’s history back to life.

“This work also ties in really closely with other big projects in the town centre, like the Dewsbury Market – work should be underway just as the arcade reopens, so both projects will hopefully see a big boost in town centre footfall.”

Keith Ramsay, chair of Dewsbury Town Board, said: “This is a big milestone for us all. We know how much local people want to see the arcade restored to its former glory, and now that work is onsite I’m hugely excited to see it reclaim its place at the heart of our town centre once more.

“This beautiful building deserves to welcome people through its doors once more, and people from Dewsbury and beyond deserve to enjoy it again.”

Chris Hill, co-founder of the Arcade Group, said: “Raising the money to deal with the arcade’s structural decline has been a tough journey, but our community business can now move on to the next stage – finding the tenants people want to see in the arcade and working to pull businesses and shoppers back to the town centre.”

Gemma Shahjahan, business development director for William Birch & Sons Ltd, added: “The plans to bring the arcade back to life are really exciting, and our teams are really looking forward to being part of that journey in what is a special year for our business – celebrating 150 years.”