A TENANT has at last been found for an iconic Dewsbury building in a major boost for town centre regeneration.
Kirklees College will move 1,000 students to Pioneer House from their Halifax Road campuses under plans due to go before councillors on Tuesday.
The former Co-operative Society building on Northgate has stood empty for the last five years after Kirklees Council spent £2.5m restoring the derelict building following their compulsory purchase of the property from Stayton Developments Ltd in 2011.
Potential occupant Connect Housing pulled out of a deal for the building three years later.
More cash is needed to make Pioneer House suitable for students – though the cost is currently unknown. Council chiefs have earmarked £2m from their capital budget and a further £850,000 from the Townscape Heritage Initiative to help. The college also has applied for cash from the Local Enterprise Partnership Skills Capital Fund.
An outcome from the bid is expected by summer, with building works to be completed by September next year.
The college is also seeking to build a new campus at the long-vacant former Safeway site on Bradford Road. The college’s current premises on Halifax Road would be sold for residential use in a total transfer of up to 2,600 students.
About 1,000 students would be based at Pioneer House, with a further 1,600 at the new Bradford Road site.
Courses involved include creative and digital media, art, healthcare, business, finance and construction.
Decisions are due to be made by Kirklees Council’s Labour cabinet at a meeting in Huddersfield. Coun Cathy Scott (Lab, Dewsbury East) said: “Pioneer House is an iconic building that defines our town. This proposal and investment is a statement of our transformational plans for Dewsbury town centre.”
She is cabinet member for housing and is a colleague of regeneration chief Coun Peter McBride.
He said: “The plan is the kickstart to wider regeneration and investment in Dewsbury.
“The building is important in itself – but this also allows other pieces of the jigsaw to fall into place.
“We’ve made Dewsbury a priority and our North Kirklees Growth Zone plans to deliver between 7,000 and 7,500 new homes, generating 5,000 new jobs.
“Our skills strategy targets us having the right opportunities for our young people in the right sectors.
“The partnership with the college will go some way to meeting all these priorities.”
College vice principal Melanie Brooke said: “We are excited by the prospect of being at the heart of the transformation plans for Dewsbury.
“It would allow the college to upgrade its estate and focus on delivering the skills needed for this region.
“We would be able to provide fantastic opportunities for students, employers and apprentices in a more accessible town centre location.”
Dewsbury Chamber of Trade president Trish Makepeace said: “We kept asking and asking about Pioneer House without getting an answer.
“But I welcome these plans as it would be good to bring more footfall into the town centre.
“And it might encourage more small businesses to open up, which is what we need to build on the work already being done.”
Coun Darren O’Donovan (Lab, Dewsbury West) said: “This is exactly what is needed in the town centre.
“Whether it’s a college, university or major private sector employer, we need something that will bring footfall from people who have disposable income and would be happy to spend their money in Dewsbury.”
He added: “In any good news story about Pioneer House it’s important to remember that there is £5m in the town centre action plan for regeneration.
“What the Tories proposed in their budget last month would have moved some of that money elsewhere at a time when we could be on the brink of a major breakthrough in terms of regeneration.”
Three grant bids for new shop fronts around Northgate in Dewsbury will also be discussed by the Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday.
Money would come from the £3.7m Townscape Heritage Initiative the council is running for the restoration of the conservation area around Pioneer House.
The owners of the following premises have sought funds:
• Northgate House;
• 38 Northgate/47 Foundry Street;
• 13 to 17 Corporation Street.
Work would include replacing broken guttering and fall pipes, stonework and structural repairs and the fitting of new windows.