Ambitious proposal for historic buildings

THE first drawings of how Halifax's Square Chapel and historic Piece Hall could be linked under ambitious £4m proposals to expand the arts centre have been revealed.

The transformation will join the two listed buildings via a triangular copper and glass atrium if Calderdale Council approves the plan.

A new 100-seat theatre, public sun terrace and continental cafe-bar with art gallery would also be created.

Square Chapel general manager Linda Franklin said: "It's incredibly exciting to finally have the plans submitted. There's still a long way to go but we're keeping our fingers crossed the council likes what it sees and we can press on."

The development would include knocking through the south wall of the Piece Hall to create a new entrance into the expanded Square Chapel.

Funding is expected to come from Yorkshire Forward, Arts Council Yorkshire and Calderdale Council.

Mrs Franklin said: "This will not only create a marvellous new gateway to Halifax for people arriving from the train station, it will also really bring the Piece Hall bang into the centre of cultural life – which is exactly where it needs to be."

A decision on the plans could be made within the next three months. If they are approved it is hoped work on the development will begin in 2010.

Coun Paul Rogan, (English Democrats, Rastrick), said: "I am keen to develop the Piece Hall and the Square Chapel as an arts centre but whether putting them together and seeking to redevelop them both is another matter.

"I have doubts about this from a number of points of view. Whether it is the right time to attract an investment of this magnitude and whether it is the best use for both buildings I am not sure.

"I think the Piece Hall is a fantastic building and I would rather see it redeveloped as something more appropriate to today's needs such as a piazza as in Salamanca, Spain.''

Cabinet member Coun Craig Whittaker, said: "The Piece Hall is the jewel in Calderdale's crown and I would be horrified if they were going to link it up with something incredibly modern.

"If there is any development it has to be in keeping with the history of the Piece Hall which has to be one of the most unusual places in the country let alone Yorkshire. Having said that it does make sense to link it with the Square Chapel which does some incredibly good things.''

Coun Grenville Horsfall, a former chairman of Calderdale's planning committee, said: "The Piece Hall is a listed building, Grade One.

''They should not be looking at altering the external structure. People have tried to do that in the past and it has always been squashed somehow.

"Glass and copper can easily look out of keeping with a listed building and I think it might prove to be too modern. I have visited Ripley Castle where they put an extension on to one side – a modern glass structure and it looks terrible, absolutely terrible."

He added: "I fear that this might be the same mistake. We have begun to let things slip a bit in preserving Calderdale's heritage and nationally too.''