Cathedral Square project: Council to buy business to meet ambitious deadline

Wakefield Council has agreed to buy city centre business premises to allow an ambitious regeneration project to go ahead on time.

Senior councillors criticised ‘ludicrous’ government deadlines as they approved the purchase to prevent the £6.5 Cathedral Square project from stalling.

A new open space next to the city’s cathedral will provide an arena for events and festivals to be held in the heart of the city.

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Government Town Deal funding has been secured for the scheme which involves demolishing buildings at the bottom of Bread Street.

Artist impression of how the Cathedral Square project could look.Artist impression of how the Cathedral Square project could look.
Artist impression of how the Cathedral Square project could look.

The council needs to purchase a final building which has been earmarked for demolition.

The owner of the property has agreed to sell the building following “challenging” negotiations.

The name of the business and the financial details involved have not been revealed.

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Council leader Denise Jeffery said the local authority had faced public criticism over the time taken to deliver the scheme.

She told a cabinet meeting “I think the sooner we crack on with this the better.

“Some of these things take a long time.

“I do notice that on Facebook we are being criticised.

People think that we are not spending the money.

“But I don’t think they realise how long these acquisitions take.

“We just have to keep getting the message out that we are doing everything and it will be delivered.”

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The government has the power to withdraw the grant if the project is not completed by March 2026.

The project forms part of a £24.9m award given to the council in 2019 to revamp the city centre.

Demolition of the buildings is scheduled for autumn this year.

Michael Graham, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “I know there is some scepticism out there about creating public spaces.

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“We can sit around and have the city centre as it is and do things how we have always done things.

“But it is not going to work. We know it is not.

“Times have changed. We need to try something new.”

Cabinet members were also critical of the government funding process.

Coun Graham said: “I’m bored of saying this now, but they have cut money every single year (since 2010) and they hand you a little bit back in a lump sum and give you a ridiculous time-scale to spend it in.

“It is absolutely ludicrous.

“You sound ungrateful…so you look stupid.

“But it is true. Time-scales are ridiculous.

“Once everyone knows we have this money to spend it makes everything very, very difficult to deliver.

“It’s just a terrible way of doing stuff,

“We are all sick of it, but we are doing a good job.”

Coun Jeffery added: “If we were funded properly in the first place, we wouldn’t need to be having these handouts. But that’s a different story.”

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