Not for the first time we've recently seen new hoardings go up around Pioneer House - so thought it would be useful to take a look at how things are developing on the Dewsbury regeneration front.
Wherever you see an image you can click on it for a larger view.
A Kick-Start For Regeneration?
Is Dewsbury Learning Quarter a win in the making for regeneration? The efforts by the council and local councillors to create a focal point of activity in the town by moving the Kirklees College presence closer to the town centre have at last come to fruition with the assistance of Leeds City Region funding.
This will enable to college to move out of the old Wheelwrights estate with large, old premises and a hefty maintenance bill and move into two more suitable buildings close to the town centre.
The long troubled Pioneer House, home of the Cooperative movement in Dewsbury, is to be converted into college premises for older students of 19+ years. Across Northgate on the old Safeway supermarket site will be built a new college building for 16-18 year old students.
Together, these two centres will bring more than 2,000 students close to the town centre on a daily basis.
We should get 3 benefits from this:
- Their daily spend will have a positive effect on the retail premises in the town centre;
- the college will have purpose built premises;
- while Pioneer House, an iconic building in Dewsbury's history, will take on a new purpose and a new lease of life.
It's interesting to see that the old shop fronts are being retained in order to preserve the character of the area. It's interesting that responsibility is split with the College being responsible for the shop fronts on the main building to the left while the Council is responsible for those on the right (the sections with the lower roof line).
Completion of Pioneer House is expected in 2018.
Kirklees College, 16-18 year students
A new college building for 16-18 year olds is being built on the old Safeway store site. Ground breaking for the new Kirklees College building started in December 2016 and the building is expected to be complete during 2017.
The planning application included this illustration of the finished college building.
That's a smart looking building providing a counterpoint to the traditional appearance of Pioneer House.
The new Kirklees College building
The Townscape Heritage Initiative is a project funded jointly by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Kirklees Council to work with landlords to return the Victorian centre of Dewsbury around Northgate to its previous architectural roots - and act as a driver for regeneration in the town.
Progress is slow as the project works to persuade landlords to take up the grants available. However, some progress has been made in the Queensway Arcade followed by these examples in Corporation Street.
Nearly finished - awaiting awnings
With awnings a few week later
The photos clearly show the difference between the taller, more gracious appearance of the refurbished shops to the right and the cluttered, squat appearance of the remaining, modern shop fronts to the left.
It's to be hoped that remaining landlords can be persuaded to join the party.
And an illustration of the use of security shutters internal to the shop front as recommended in the Dewsbury Design Guidelines.
This provides the security required while preventing that awful appearance that a town is completely closed down when blank, external shuttering is used.
The Old Gas Showrooms
The Old Gas Showrooms or TOGS as the building is affectionately known locally will rapidly have to acquire a new name, perhaps TNOGS after refurbishment by the landlord completed in March 2017 turned it into The New Old Gas Showrooms.
Refurbished with grant assistance from the Townscape Heritage Initiative as part of the regeneration effort to return the north end of town to its former, Victorian architectural roots, the building now looks cared for - though currently seems to be seeking a new tenant as the interior remains incomplete.
And A Plea For The Phone Box
Standing alongside the smart new Gas Showrooms building is another memory of former days, a good old BT red phone box.
It's to be hoped that the Townscape Heritage Initiative can persuade BT to provide some TLC to return it to it's former glory.
During 2016 the empty office space on the second and third floors of Yorkshire House, just behind the bus station, have been converted from office space to residential flats.
The need to provide additional windows has led to a transformation of the external appearance as the architects took the opportunity to introduce coloured panels to the exterior walls.
The change seemed originally to be bad news for Dewsbury's New Picture House community cinema that was based on the third floor and was obliged to move out. However, every cloud has a silver lining and the New Picture House has since found a bigger, better home just across the street.
So, overall, we've got a better looking building which is occupied with more residents hopefully spending more money in local shops while the apparent bad news for our community cinema turned into a blessing in disguise.
The anger of the towns residents at the condition of the completely empty Arcade is evidenced by the repeated entries on various Facebook pages.
Owned by Adhan Lettings, a property company that states on its website: '..we will always give you that little bit extra to ensure you are pleased with the results and our services' - a level of service that seems to be absent from their efforts in Dewsbury.
The former Fire Station in Huddersfield Road was vacated by the Fire Service in 2015 and has been for sale by the Fire & Ambulance Service since then. The building obviously had some unique features, particularly the size of the garage/workshop space.
There has been a planning application rumoured for part demolition and conversion to residential flats with a convenience store - which does nothing for the economic potential of the area as it replaces a building with unique facilities with bog standard flats and yet another convenience store.
Most recently there has been a planning application (2017/91047) for 'Part demolition of fire station and erection of 4no. warehouse units and 4no. apartments'.
From the look of the proposed changes it appears that use is now being made of the large access features of the existing building. While we're in no position to make judgements about the economic value of any changes this does seem to be a better use of the unusual features of the existing building.
This now has the potential to create jobs rather than just knocking everything down and converting to residential which may provide housing - but still leaves people looking for work.
Plan view of the site
Enterprise Car Hire
Enterprise Car Hire have recently taken over the former Johnsons Drive Through dry cleaning site in Ravensthorpe. The site has been vacant for more than a year and it is good to see this development for 2 reasons.
Firstly, it gets rid of that big To Let sign and shows that there is life in the area.
Secondly, car hire takes place where people have disposable income, there are visitors and economic activity. So if a major chain like Enterprise is prepared to invest in opening a branch then they are obviously convinced that there is growth in the area.
This seems to be confirmed by the constant flow of planning applications for side, rear and dormer conversions to residential properties indicating that while we no doubt continue to have substantial problems in the area the majority of our residents are showing that they are investing in their long term future here.
Keep Us Advised
This short summary is just a snapshot of developments over the last 12 months or so gleaned from publicly available information and wandering around town with a camera.
If you are aware of changes and developments taking place in your part of town then do please drop us a line using the Contact page so that we can put it on our radar and report back from time to time.