Every £1 spent on operating Halifax’s historic Piece Hall is generating at least £5.30 for the local economy, a new report has revealed.
Amongst its findings is that it has added around £26 million to the Calderdale economy since it re-opened on August 1, 2017 following a £22 million refurbishment.
Regionally, the online search traffic for The Piece Hall shows a 756 per cent increase on the comparable average for 2010-2017, meaning the Grade I listed 18th century cloth hall is second only to York Minster in terms of searches.
This is “very significantly and directly” attributed to the regenerated building, the events it puts on and profile-raising public relations work, said the paper’s authors, Tom Lees of Bradshaw Advisory and Chris Walker and Paul Chamberlain, founders of ChamberlainWalker Economics.
Independently produced by Bradshaw Advisory for the Piece Hall Trust, it has been researched and compiled using the same “Green Book” basis used by the Treasury to appraise policies, programmes and projects.
The effect of the new-look Piece Hall on Calderdale includes boosting footfall at the nearby Woolshops shopping centre by around one million shoppers over the last two years.
The Piece Hall is bringing these benefits – while keeping it free to enter – for around the cost of one cup of coffee a year per Calderdale resident, according to the report.
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The building’s direct economic impact on the borough showed it was likely to contribute at least £7.2 million a year through direct employment, events and the activities of its tenants, in terms of the 107 jobs it supported and retail sales.
Indirectly, including the additional Woolshops footfall which analysis identified, the regeneration was also boosting the local retail economy by around £4.5 million a year.
The Piece Hall Trust’s chair, Roger Marsh, said the report was commissioned to examine whether the Piece Hall was doing what it was transformed to do - and whether it would continue to do that in the future.
And he said it showed the answer was a resounding “yes”.
Overall, there have been more than five million visitors to The Piece Hall since its reopening - with 75,000 from overseas - who have made a significant contribution to Calderdale’s finances, said the report.
Goals included making it a heritage asset of world status while being home to thriving businesses and becoming the key driver of Calderdale’s wider economy.
At a running cost of around £1,000-a-day each year, it was delivering an event a week, around 40 per cent of which were free to attend, he said.
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“The Bradshaw Advisory report reveals that we are achieving and exceeding the council’s expectations for this important heritage and cultural asset," said Mr Marsh.
“The ‘Piece Hall Effect’ clearly demonstrates how the right vision, leadership and investment can deliver strong economic and cultural growth that benefits businesses and communities.”
It would cost as much money to keep it “mothballed”, the report said. As a Grade I listed site, it would cost ratepayers between £500,000 and £800,000 a year - without any of the economic benefits, it added.
Piece Hall Chief Executive Nicky Chance-Thompson said the building is on course to cover 80 per cent of its costs itself with the remaining 20 per cent needing to come from public funding – which is not unusual in this sector and was in line with its five-year plan for the Piece Hall.
No other heritage building of its scale in the region, ranging from York Minster to the Hepworth Gallery – operates without charging.
“It’s about a balance of keeping an important heritage and tourism asset as a local asset and not drawing too heavily on the public purse,” she said.
Ms Chance-Thompson said making £5.30 for each £1 invested was an “extraordinary” figure in business terms - with a £2 return for £1 investment usually considered a good return.
Mr Marsh and Ms Chance-Thompson said the report shows the Piece Hall is worth much more to the Calderdale economy than it costs and that the effects will be lasting.
The same can be said in aesthetic terms with 90 per cent of Yorkshire residents, according to figures specially commissioned by leading polling company Survation as part of the report, believing the Piece Hall is important for Halifax’s economy and reputation.
Mr Marsh and Ms Chance-Thompson also said The Piece Hall is rapidly becoming the place to play for leading musicians, with a string of sold-out concerts this year, and the likes of Kaiser Chiefs and ska legends The Specials due to play next year. It is an area of growth which will be explored further in the future, they added.
Amid difficult times for high streets nationally, the report also indicates the economic benefits could be influential on leading businesses with the report citing data from Savills, who manage the Woolshops, leading to the compilers’ observation that “Marks & Spencer chose to keep its store open in Halifax while closing its Huddersfield store.”
It has also been praised by Historic England which consider the Piece Hall to be “the most successful renewal project of its time”, with an exemplar business model.