Kellingley Social Club: Answers demanded over £10m revamp as council accused of ‘getting people’s hopes up’

Wakefield Council has been accused of ‘getting people’s hopes up’ over a £10m regeneration of Kellingley Social Club.

Knottingley councillors demanded answers over time-scales and money spent on the project to transform the run-down building into a new community facility in the town.

The Labour-run council last week announced that plans for the first phase of development will soon be revealed to community groups and local politicians.

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Knottingley’s three Lib Dem councillors criticised the progress being made during questions to Michael Graham, portfolio holder for regeneration, at a full council meeting.

Wakefield Council's Lib Dem group members Rachel Speak (left), group leader Pete Girt (centre) and Adele Hayes (right)Wakefield Council's Lib Dem group members Rachel Speak (left), group leader Pete Girt (centre) and Adele Hayes (right)
Wakefield Council's Lib Dem group members Rachel Speak (left), group leader Pete Girt (centre) and Adele Hayes (right)

Pete Girt, leader of the Lib Dem group, referred to a meeting to discuss the scheme on March 7.

He said: “My recollection of the meeting is that everything is very much up in the air, there is nothing concrete happening.

“So, I was quite surprised to see that a couple of days later there were billboards put up outside Kellingley Club announcing what is going to happen and saying it’s starting at the end of the year.

“But we haven’t got a date for it.

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The old Kellingley Social Club building, in Knottingley.The old Kellingley Social Club building, in Knottingley.
The old Kellingley Social Club building, in Knottingley.

“Why are we suddenly putting up billboards saying this is happening and getting people’s hopes up.yet again in our ward when nothing has been agreed?

“No designs have been finalised.

“It’s all pie in the sky stuff again.”

Coun Girt added: “We had it before when the billboards were up for three or four years and nothing came of it.

“Now we are doing the same again. Is it because there is an election coming?”

“Aren’t we better off waiting until we have agreed what is going on on the site and then?

“Why do it now when we haven’t agreed anything? We are no further forward than we were.”

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Coun Graham replied: “I think when it comes to regeneration it’s a really tricky thing. You do need announcements that we are going to invest this money.

“One of the big frustrations for residents is that all the lights go out and while all the behind the scenes work goes on, buying buildings, designing facilities, they get really frustrated that nothing is happening.

“Trust me, I know that members in Knottingley and residents in Knottingley and Ferrybridge are frustrated that nothing has happened yet at that site.”

Coun Graham further explained: “Billboards have gone up right across the district. It is nothing to do with elections.

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“We have got them in Castleford, we have got them in Wakefield

“We have got them in a lot of places where projects are going to happen.

“It is to give people reassurance that something is going to be happening on that site.

“That it hasn’t gone away and it hasn’t been forgotten about.

“Just to reassure you, this is definitely happening.

“This is a commitment from the council.

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“We have promised this money to Knottingley and we are going to deliver on it.”

In February 2023, the council approved major investment to turn the building into a community hub.

It was intended that the new facility would host sports, youth clubs and community groups, with a job centre and Citizens Advice centre also based there.

Councillors in the area described the project as “a waste of public money” as many of the services are already available in the area.

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Following the criticism, the council promised to “take another look” at the proposals.

Coun Rachel Speak asked: “There seems to be a lot of public money wasted on the Kellingley club site with nothing at all up to press to show for it.

“Can we have a public inquiry so we know where all the money has gone?”

Coun Graham said: “I wouldn’t waste time or money on an inquiry to find out what has happened.

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“We know what’s happened. We went to consultation, we had a scheme in place.

“It was the Lib Dem councillors that weren’t happy with that scheme.

“You approached me and said this isn’t going to work.

“So when I took over as portfolio holder we looked at the scheme with a fresh set of eyes.

“I understand your frustration around delays and it’s the same for many projects across the council and the country.

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“If you look at Levelling Up funding for example, only 20 per cent of councils have spent it.”

“I don’t want to waste any taxpayers’ money looking into anything that has happened previously.

“I want to get on with what we are delivering.”

Coun Adele Hayes asked: “Can we get an up to date list of what has been spent so far on Kellingley?”

Coun Graham said: “Yes, this council is completely transparent.

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“Any money that has been spent on any project is all in the public domain.

“We will spell it out. There is nothing to hide.

“We are genuinely trying to deliver the best for Knottingley and give them a scheme that you guys are happy with, that residents are happy with and that they deserve.”

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