PLANS for a radical £200m transformation of Dewsbury have been revealed as part of a striking new vision for the town centre.
The 'Dewsbury Blueprint' was launched by Kirklees Council at the town hall on Wednesday evening, and aims to create a family-friendly, active, accessible and attractive town centre after years of decline and under-investment.
The highlight of the council's plan is the acquisition and restoration of The Arcade, which has lain empty for several years. The authority's purchase is set to be finalised in the coming weeks.
The ambitious 10-year plan also includes:
• Pedestrianising Longcauseway and creating a town park;
• Relocating 750 Kirklees Council employees to the centre of Dewsbury;
• A revamp of Empire House next to Dewsbury Town Hall;
• Small units for creative businesses;
• A dedicated policing and community team for the town centre;
• A new office complex on Cliffe Street car park;
• The demolition of the former Co-op funeral parlour building on Northgate, making way for a 'pocket park';
• Redeveloping Daisy Hill into a high-quality residential area in the hope of attracting professionals working in nearby cities. Field House will be the 'flagship development', with 23 high-quality flats as well as a cafe and restaurant;
• A new bus station with improved pedestrian and cycle routes, including along Bond Street to the market;
• Bringing the market "back to life" with more places to eat, space for live music, theatre, and art among the stalls.
The council also announced that renowned sculpture artist Antony Gormley, who was born in Dewsbury Moor, has lent Kirklees College one of his sculptures to display on the top of the new Pioneer Campus for 10 years.
And the council says that artworks will be "built into the fabric of the town", including on buildings, footpaths, lighting and public seats.
Kirklees Council Leader Shabir Pandor said: "We're incredibly excited to be announcing another ambitious transformational plan. The recent recession and national measures of austerity meant our earlier plans to regenerate this once great town were put on hold.
"We have put our money where our mouth is. Buying The Arcade in particular is testimony to the fact that this is not a plan with no substance. We have taken back control of our own destiny.
"You will see some of these key projects in Dewsbury begin very soon with consultations on the market improvements and town park starting later this year.
"People and businesses in the town should know that we are committed to them and we are going to deliver. This is a new era of investing and taking back control of our towns and villages."
Coun Aleks Lukic (Ind, Dewsbury East) said: "These are really promising ideas, but people will only start to believe them once they see progress because there's been a lot of masterplans for Dewsbury in the past.
"The Arcade is the most prominent symbol of Dewsbury's fortunes and if the council get it reopened that would be transformational. It could become the focal point of the town and help Dewsbury become a destination again. This might be the moment that the council begins to balance Kirklees across the borough.
Coun Masood Ahmed (Lab, Dewsbury South) said that he felt "like a kid in a sweet shop" after hearing the proposals.
"I'm just overwhelmed with the presentation – it seems to me that Kirklees is investing and Dewsbury will soon be in business," he added.
"It's not going to happen overnight – Rome wasn't built in a day. I'll be onto the council to make sure that they deliver what they've promised tonight."
Residents will be able to view the plans and share their opinions by visiting the pop-up Dewsbury Blueprint Shop in the former home of TUI in Market Place. It will be open from 10am to 3pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays from February 17 to March 14.
The blueprint document is also available to view online at www.kirklees.gov.uk/dewsburyblueprint.