Work could start this year on £25m shopping centre for town

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HALIFAX town centre could soon have a huge new shopping centre costing up to £25m with a 500-space car park.

Outline plans for the multi-million pound scheme in the south of the centre have been submitted to Calderdale Council and if approved will see the demolition of the Pennine Shopping Centre on Union Street, New Road Business Park and real ale hostelry The Pump Room.

A report prepared for the planning committee which meets on Tuesday says the development which would boast large, modern retail units would “help retain more trade in the town centre and claw back expenditure currently going to other centres or locations both in Calderdale and wider afield.”

It adds that the development would also provide “a new anchor to the south side of Halifax town centre which would serve to increase footfall and improve links to the Piece Hall...the development would also complement the new mixed-use scheme currently being built on Broad Street on the north side of the town centre.”

Regarding conservation the report says: “the loss of the Pump Room public house is to be lamented.” West Yorkshire Archaeology, (WYA), says the ale house is of archaeological interest and its assessment shows buildings on the plot dating back to 1797.

Head of Planning, Geoff Willerton, says in his report WYA “considers that blocked cellar openings to Church Street suggest that the core of the earlier structure survives.

“WYA also states that the cellars beneath the pub and any evidence for their previous uses as cellar dwellings are of particular interest. It is WYA’s opinion that the impact of the proposed development, which will result in the complete demolition, is that information relating to the early history of the public house will be lost, such as the provision of accommodation for drinkers and the cellars.”

Conservation body English Heritage is also supportive of the redevelopment. It says: “By encouraging increased pedestrian movement through the Piece Hall and by improving the appearance of Horton Street, it would support the future vision for this outstanding Grade I listed building and contribute to maintaining the vibrancy of the town centre.”

The Royal London Property Fund which has submitted the plans has also put forward a separate application for the demolition of several buildings to faciliate the proposed development.

Mr Willerton says the Pennine Shopping Centre “is a utilitarian 20th century building of no architectural interest and the New Road Business Park is of little merit.

“Neither make a positive contribution to the existing character and appearance of the conservation area.

“The Pump Room public house is of more significance as it adds to the historic character and function of the area. However, the value of the proposed development is considered to outweigh this significance.”

Deputy council leader Tim Swift, (Lab, Town), said: “It’s been quite a long time in the making, this one. One of the concerns I would have is getting the traffic and access right.

“Town ward councillors have argued that we need to build in improvements to Church Street which is quite narrow. And the proposed demolition of The Pump Room is unfortunate.”

But he said the outdated complex was ripe for redevelopment as the existing retail units were not appropriate for modern shopping needs. He added that with the £50m Broad Street retail development almost finished and plans for the historic Piece Hall to be transformed, Halifax town centre was attracting serious investment. Coun Swift said: “Obviously every town centre is under pressure but the fact that the Broad Street development went ahead at the very height of the recession tells you something about this town’s vitality.”