Dewsbury regeneration efforts slammed

Issue 498

A trader has criticised the continuing decline of Dewsbury 12 months on from the launch of a 25year regeneration masterplan.
Mark Rourke, who runs the wellknown Main Exchange store in Westgate, claims trade is still falling while the redevelopment scheme has delivered few tangible results.
He hit out after it was revealed the BBC are coming back a year on from their ‘Inside Out’ documentary to see what has changed.
They are expected to be filming in Dewsbury on November 21 and 22 and Mr Rourke (pictured above) said: “I’ll be telling them things have actually got worse.
“Not only is trade down on last year, but the masterplan, as we all said at time, has got nowhere. It just gives Kirklees some cover.
“They can say ‘well, we’re only a year into a longterm strategy’ and they can still say ‘there’s another 15 years to go’ a decade from now.”
But regeneration board chief Coun Paul Kane (Lab, Dewsbury East) pointed to a host of achievements. He highlighted:
• Dewsbury Market’s
renovation;
• A multimillion pound restoration of Dewsbury Town Hall;
• A greenway linking Dewsbury and Ossett;
• The recent Lottery bid for improving the town centre conservation area;
• Persuading Sainsbury’s to build a new supermarket;
• Getting WH Smith to stay despite them initially wanting to pull out.
Coun Kane added: “Negativity is a selffulfilling prophecy. As long as people keep talking the town down, that’s the way it’ll go.
“We think there’s lots to be positive about. The masterplan has delivered results. But all the changes we want to make can’t just happen overnight.”
The scheme, called a Strategic Development Framework, was devised by Kirklees with input from architects Bauman Lyons.
It earmarked town centre buildings like the Job Centre and Empire House for demolition and the Longcauseway for pedestrianisation.
Mr Rourke feels it neglected smaller practical things, like free parking, that he thinks would make a big difference to traders.
He also wants Kirklees to intervene around Westgate and Daisy Hill, where buildings once owned by a defunct arm of the Stayton Group, are crumbling.
Mr Rourke highlighted the uncertainty caused by the state of the buildings and how traders feel ‘left out’ following the conservation area lottery bid.
Some business owners, with between a year and two years left on their leases, are thought to be reluctant to sign new ones.
Coun Kane said the area had not be forgotten and said: “We’re looking at the town as a whole. The heritage funding bid is just one avenue.
“Our officers are looking all the time at other areas of funding. We’re also using our enforcement powers on building owners.
“One was up in court only this week. The fact that our building control department is looking at this show how seriously we’re taking it.”
He added council officials acted over the Dewsbury Photo Centre building in Westgate by getting receivers in the case to do up the shop front.   
“Our message remains positive,” Coun Kane said. “Anyone with ideas about how to take Dewsbury forward can contact me. My door is always open.”

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