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Go straight to Northgate House – do not pass go – do not collect £200.

July 21, 2011

One of my favourite views in Halifax is from The Magnificent Town Hall, looking down towards Southgate precinct. Stand with your back to the Town Hall, or better still look from the small window by the reception in The Town Hall and look down towards Southgate. The view takes in Princess Building and The White Swan Hotel and in the distance the Halifax borough Market that was built between 1891 and 1896 – this is a view more apt for a large city rather than a small town like Halifax. Now as we all know the Victorians knew how to build, they knew how to build aesthetically and how to build for the future. I can remember the market thriving, as a teen  on a Saturday I would visit with a friend who did impressions of one of the grocers we would mingle with the shoppers and the grocer would shout something like “Potatoes 30p a pound” and my friend would shout “potatoes 20p a pound” from the other side of the stall. Well it amused us – as did the chase!

Later I remember one Christmas the market had a Victorian theme day and all the stall holders dressed appropriately, hot chestnuts were sold and an Austrian oompah band played – It was a really good atmosphere. The traders appeared to be busy and it was a good place to be on a cold winters day. We do have older buildings in Halifax but the Market is and should remain a key hub of the town.

Then in this weeks Halifax Courier we read “(Councillor) David Hardy (Lib Dem, Elland) said: “The best way to preserve properties like this is to give them new life. Then they’ve got another 300 years in them.”

Brilliant – this impressive structure has another 300 years in it – those Victorians certainly knew how to build didn’t they. But it seems that The Market is under threat as Calderdale MBC have not been keeping up with the maintenance of this Grade 1 listed building and urgent work is needed if it is to be retained – as it should be.

Contrast this with Northgate House – built in the 1970’s for what is now Calderdale MBC and seemingly similarly neglected since then if recent reports are to be believed. The council claim £15m (yeah you read it correctly fifteen million pounds) need to be spent to update the building. We are told this includes new lifts and replacement windows – maybe even air conditioning.

16000 people signed a petition against the demolition of The Central Library at Northgate, Halifax when the Council was conservative held.. This building was only built 30 years ago along with Northgate House and yet incredibly, Calderdale MBC were considering knocking it down. The petition was handed into the council by Coun Barry Collins (Lab). We are told that this led to the Council reviewing their ideas regarding Northgate.

After the conservatives lost control of the council and were replaced by a Lib Dem/Labour coalition, the Lib Dems on their website stated;

“The need for change is demonstrated by the previous Conservative Cabinet’s:

  • Making a complete mess of the award of the new waste contract, betraying Kerbside and risking millions of pounds of public money;
  • Failing our most vulnerable children by not getting a grip on safeguarding services;
  • Wasting millions of pounds on high-paid consultants; and
  • Trying to bulldoze Halifax central library.

Now I’m sure we can all agree with those aims – but now in 2011 with a Lib Dem/Labour coalition we have the council again looking at demolishing Northgate House and according to reports in The Halifax Courier – the library too. And one of the lead players in this is …… Coun Barry Collins.

The Gregory Group – the ones building the Broad Street development want to knock down Nortgate House and The Central Library and in their place build ashopping centre – the key business of which will be Primark.

A 30 year old building is planned for demolition – why? Surely it’s cheaper to update Northgate House than it is to build a new one? It is certainly more environmentally friendly.

In my opinion this is because the Broad Street development has not managed to attract any other occupants to it’s office space – in the same way it was unable to attract retailers and so became purely a lesuire destination + an NHS clinic. This development must be seen to succeed as CMBC have pinned all their hopes on it as being a shining light of how good they are at attracting developers. But who will be meeting the cost of moving all those office staff into Broad Street? What will be the costs of the new build? If it is to be a PFI agreement then you don’t need to look too far to see who benefits from them (clue – it’s never the customer).

It seems to me that we are being pushed into this scheme in order to justify the councils claim that one of their big projects – Broad Street is a big success and that we should all be so impressed with CMBC.

I’ve seen the Broad Street Development grow into the monstrosity that now dominates the skyline (wait until the light pollution is switched on) and I can well believe that building is specified to last 30 years (which just happens to be the normal timespan of a PFI agreement) but 30 years ago they didn’t build for todays throw away society.

If there are any plans for Northgate we should be able to see everything – how much it will cost to move into The Gregory Groups buildings – and how much the projected costs are for the term of any PFI agreement. We should be allowed to see what the quotes (not just figures made up to support the case to tear down and re-build) actually are and from whom. We should also demand that any agreements with Primark are real and not just dreamed up. I know that CMBC claim they are open and transparent – though that has not been my experience – but we need to keep them on their toes – ask every question and share information so that CMBC cannot get away with acting in the dark as though we are not bright enough to understand what is best for us and our town.

It’s our money these people are playing Monopoly with.

 

 

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