As a powerhouse of the industrial revolution, the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield became synonymous with thrift and graft.
Today, it’s determined to make a name as a retail destination.
A new multi-million pound expansion at the Kingsgate shopping centre will ensure that Huddersfield remains in the top 50 UK shopping destinations in the years to come, according to the owner of the centre.
Peter Everest, MD of WD Huddersfield, said that retail will centre on fewer towns, and into a much tighter core, as people choose to travel to shopping centres which offer larger stores.
Plans for the £40m expansion, which will see about six new large units and four smaller ones added to the Kingsgate shopping centre, and the centre grow by 50 per cent, if planning permission is granted, will help to ensure Huddersfield thrives as a hub for shoppers.
He said the aim was to try to bring back shoppers from centres such as the White Rose Centre, Meadowhall and Leeds to shop in Huddersfield.
“Kirklees and ourselves are looking at the town and how we can enhance it.
“We are working with the council and there is a recognition that the town needs to move forward, it needs to evolve.
“The intention is to benefit Huddersfield and to reduce the spend going out of the town,” he said.
The plans include a new entrance to the shopping centre which opens on to the station quadrant, which Mr Everest said would give smaller shops surrounding the centre a boost by their proximity to the larger department stores.
The land the new expansion would be built on is bordered between Cross Church Street, Oldgate and Kirkgate.
Mr Everest is hoping to attract one or two major department stores in to the newly expanded centre, in addition to the 80,000 sq ft House of Fraser store it already houses.
The Kingsgsate Centre, which was built at a cost of £65m-£70m a decade ago, is a project which is close to Mr Everest’s heart, as he watched it rise from the ground.
“I saw the drains go in and have been here every step of the way. It is my baby,” he said. “We have been looking at expansion for a couple of years now.”
He said that Huddersfield is a much better place to invest than people outside the area believe it to be.
“Huddersfield is in the top 50 towns and cities in the UK. It is a lot bigger than people think and is overshadowed greatly by Halifax. Bradford also takes a higher priority,” he said.
He said that his plans, which will be open to public consultation before he submits a planning application early next year, will help Huddersfield to keep its status as one of the top shopping destinations in Yorkshire. “The whole concept is that the people of Huddersfield will have a say as to what the options are,” he said.
One of the plans being considered is the possibility of including a four star hotel, which he said would benefit the town.
“This is something the town needs and it could be on the top of the car park, for example,” he said.
He said he is not anxious about making such a large investment even though these are tumultuous economic times.
“You always feel it is never the right time to invest. It could be that we are five to 10 years from being the right time to invest, but we are working with what we have.
“We need to enhance the town,” he said.
Mr Everest said he has seen a change in the retail landscape over the past few years, to one where the major stores are only interested in taking much larger units.
“Retail is changing, therefore we have to change or we will die. Unit sizes have gone up in the past five years,” he said.
“For one retailer we had to combine lots of bits and pieces to create a 12,000 sq ft store. This is where retail is going.
“Retail will concentrate on fewer towns and into a much tighter core so we have to provide that tighter core.”
The expansion is expected to create 600 permanent full-time equivalent jobs in the centre, with about 300 jobs during the construction phase.
The centre would be approximately 410,000 sq ft when it is finished and additional car parking is also part of the plan.
Kingsgate Centre manager Jonathan Hardy, who was born and bred in the town, and has been involved in every stage of the centre’s development said: “Huddersfield has a rich past built on textiles that were sold worldwide, and has a bright future as a leading destination for fashion.
“Those who visit the town centre for the first time are often pleasantly surprised by its magnificent architecture.”