£12m investment in town centre

A HEATED debate over Kirklees Council’s commitment to the regeneration of Dewsbury was the highlight of the town’s area committee meeting on Tuesday.
Couns Paul Kane and Khizar Iqbal clashed when Coun Kane, who heads the the Dewsbury Regeneration Board, told the meeting that around £12m was being invested in the town from various sources.
Coun Kane (Lab, Dewsbury East) gave an update on the Regeneration Board’s progress and explained the various projects that the group had worked on.
Speaking at the town hall, he claimed that in last two years there has been major Kirklees investment in Dewsbury, amounting to around £10m, including:

Dewsbury Market’s renovation;
A multimillion pound restoration of Dewsbury Town Hall;
A greenway linking Dewsbury and Ossett;
A successful shop front improvement initiative;
The purchase of Pioneer House;
Work on the new council customer service centre in the Walsh Building;
Events including Dewsbury On Sea and ‘Spirit’.

Coun Kane continued: “Bids are in place with the Heritage Lottery Fund for £2m to smarten up the Northgate area, as well as £700,000 to create urban playscapes.
“In total that’s more than £12m that’s coming into Dewsbury.”
Coun Iqbal (Con, Dewsbury South) is a longtime opponent of the slow pace of regeneration efforts and claims that the Huddersfield area receives far more funding than Dewsbury.
He said: “All we are doing is going round and round recycling the same old figures with cash that was committed to projects five years ago.
“Some of this £12m is from previous administrations and the figures are misleading.
“Dewsbury is dying – it’s like a patient who needs major surgery and we’re just using sticking plasters.
“Dewsbury regeneration is not going to happen unless there is a full and genuine commitment from Kirklees Council.
“I don’t blame Coun Kane or the Regeneration Board. It’s Kirklees that needs to make the real commitment, as they’re just not serious about Dewsbury.”
Heated words were also exchanged over the millions spent by the council on large projects in Huddersfield, such as the new Kirklees College building.
Coun Kane said that much of the money invested in Huddersfield was privately funded and that regeneration efforts in Dewsbury will take many years.
The Regeneration Board and the Town Team are also putting in a joint bid for funding from a new £1m pot of Government cash to help rundown high streets.
Part of plans proposed by TV retail guru Mary Portas, towns can bid for support from a dedicated team and Ms Portas herself.
“The money would be shared between 12 towns, so if successful we would get around £87,000,” said Coun Kane.
“It’s only a drop in the ocean but it could help to pay for free parking or to allow the council to look at some kind of business rate holiday for town centre businesses – whatever helps.”

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