National plea for £2m in bid to create ‘global’ visitor attraction

Wayne Bowser, chairman of the Piece Hall Trust
Wayne Bowser, chairman of the Piece Hall Trust
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TRUSTEES charged with developing a “world class” visitor attraction at a 230-year-old former cloth hall have issued a national plea for £2m.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has already given £7m and Calderdale Council £10m towards the transformation of the Piece Hall, a Grade I building in the heart of Halifax town centre which is temporarily closed and due to reopen in early 2016.

At a gathering in Halifax last night, over 100 VIPs, including business people, heard that £2m was still needed to complete the funding package.

Members of the Piece Hall Trust, which will take over the building’s ownership in 2016, are hoping to raise the final £2m from grants and private donations.

Trust chairman Wayne Bowser said the aim was to find businesses prepared to buy sponsorship space and find “champions,” who would “speak for us and might put money in, or organise events.”

The overall aim was to take the Piece Hall back to its roots as a meeting place for the community with textiles at the heart of it, he said.

“What we want to develop is a meeting place for the community, with the right attractions, and I want people to spend money while they are there.”

Once the revamp is complete, there will be a range of businesses, including bars/restaurants.

“The difference is that it will be much more modern and it has to be commercially viable. We can’t let it stagnate like it did. We have to get the right sort of tenants.”

Mr Bowser, whose background is in banking, believes the Piece Hall has the potential to be of global interest.

“If we get the right product, it will travel globally. There is a good opportunity for people to associate themselves with a great brand.”

Fellow Trustee Councillor Tim Swift, leader of Calderdale Council, said he was confident the Piece Hall would regenerate the town centre and that the Trust was up to the task.

“When it re-opens in 2016, the Piece Hall will provide a mix of commercial spaces and retail and leisure opportunities – there’ll be something for everyone.

“Visitors will be able to learn about the history of this unique hall in a brand new Heritage Interpretation Centre; browse amongst independent shops; relax with a drink with friends or sit in the re-designed courtyard and soak up the atmosphere of this remarkable Georgian building.

“There will also be a range of modern workspaces which will appeal to creative businesses and new conference facilities, which will provide a unique venue for events and meetings. Detailed work has been undertaken on business demand to inform the business plan submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund as part of our successful funding application. The trust has recruited senior business figures with lengthy experience in the commercial sector to take this work forward, and work with the Council to implement it over the next 18 months.”

An extensive outdoor events programme was planned to provide entertainment for all tastes and ages, said Councillor Swift.

“When the Piece Hall re-opens it will be a world-class, sustainable, heritage destination, which will attract local people and visitors from across the region and the country.”