Work on Pioneer House stops as fit-out firm goes bust

Work on Pioneer House stops as fit-out firm goes bust
By Tony Earnshaw
Local Democracy Reporter

THE MULTI-MILLION pound revamp of Dewsbury’s Pioneer House has ground to a halt after the company re-fitting the building went into administration.

Kirklees College is understood to have taken over the project.

It is a further blow to the completion of the massive transformation project aimed at revitalising the iconic town centre site.

Just over a year ago Kirklees Council stepped in with a £2m grant to help Kirklees College deliver Pioneer House, which will be a new campus for the town.

Fit out specialists Styles & Wood, a construction firm based in Sale in Greater Manchester, went into administration on February 28 after experiencing cashflow problems associated with major sites.

Parent company Extentia Group Ltd, which acquired Styles & Wood in 2018, has also gone into administration.

Work on Pioneer House, which had been due to open in 2019, stopped last week.

An observer who did not wish to be named said: “College managers were at the site on Friday protecting building materials and cables as workmen were taking items and undoing completed work.”

A member of college staff on site, who gave his name as Steve, said: “The college is continuing the project and it will open shortly.”

The collapse of Styles & Wood is the latest chapter in the chequered history of Pioneer House, a landmark Grade II listed building on Northgate that was compulsorily purchased by the council in 2011 when it was derelict.

Owners the Stayton Group failed to maintain it.

At a public inquiry into the dispute the property was described as “central to the future regeneration of the town centre.”

Built in 1878, it has been championed as one of the flagship elements of the North Kirklees Growth Zone (NKGZ) initiative and as an expansion of the college’s footprint in Dewsbury.

The site is said to have “strategic importance” within the NKGZ as it will help revitalise the town.

Kirklees Council unveiled its £200m Dewsbury Blueprint on February 5 at an exclusive launch event held in Dewsbury Town Hall.

The 10-year investment plan aims to revive town centre sites including the Kingsway Arcade and Empire House next to the town hall.

The council also wants to revitalise Dewsbury Market and will demolish the Co-op building to make way for a 'pocket park'.

Speaking in 2018 senior councillor Graham Turner described the restoration of Pioneer House as “the first step towards reinvigorating Dewsbury”.

In asking members of the council’s decision-making Cabinet to approve the £2m grant Coun Turner said funding had been “an ongoing problem”.

However the grant will not be repaid by the college, which may lead the council to have to raise capital receipts to offset it via the sale of land that it owns.

Kirklees College was approached to comment.

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