MAJOR improvements which are being proposed for a Yorkshire market town are a step closer following a bid for millions of pounds of Lottery money.
Residents and politicians in Dewsbury have been campaigning for years for regeneration works to the town centre and its historic buildings, some of which are rotting away.
Kirklees Council is putting pressure on landlords to take action and is using the law to force owners to make improvements.
The council has now been told that Dewsbury has today been given initial support for a regeneration scheme from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The bid is to the Townscape Heritage Initiative which offers grants to help regenerate conservation areas in social and economic need.
The initial bid for £2m, including £33,500 development funding, made it through the competitive first round and was submitted by Kirklees Council on behalf of partners. Match funding from the council will provide a total of £3.7m of grant aid.
Fiona Spiers, head of HLF Yorkshire and Humber, said: “HLF investment goes well beyond the bricks and mortar of a building. Townscape Heritage Initiative schemes can really help turn around local economies, not only by improving how they look and feel, but by prompting business start-ups and creating new jobs and training opportunities.
“We are delighted to be able to work with Kirklees Council on these plans for Dewsbury and look forward to seeing them progress.”
Coun David Sheard, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “This is good news for the town and will go a long way to reverse the creeping decline of the important buildings in the historic core of Dewsbury.
“Our plans for investment in the cluster of buildings in the north west quarter of the conservation area including the iconic Pioneer House complex will provide a focus for new retail, office and enterprise activity and will stimulate the economic vitality of the town and drive further investment.”
“We will work closely with building owners to produce high quality refurbishments of retail and office spaces which will encourage local people, visitors and businesses into this beautiful town.”
A council spokesman added: “The bid will look towards improving the historic buildings in the northern quarter of Dewsbury town centre, stretching from the market place to the ring road to include Halifax Road and Branch Road areas.
“The scheme will however primarily focus on the immediate area around Pioneer House, including the former funeral parlour and the Northgate Arcades. If the council is successful in gaining the £2m offered by the HLF, the money will be spent on the repair and reuse of historic buildings in the bid area.
“After being given permission to start by the HLF, officers of the council and their consultants will be contacting building owners to discuss how the scheme will help achieve the long term viability of the buildings in the area.”
Coun Paul Kane, chairman of the Dewsbury Regeneration Board, said: “This is very good news for the town and a shot in the arm for the hard work of officers working with the Regeneration Board.
“Regeneration is a marathon not a sprint and bit by bit we are seeing success after success in these bid rounds.
“Everyone knows there is a lot to do in the town and we have a hard job in these present circumstances.
“Decline does not happen overnight but the ‘rot’, I believe, is now under control. I look forward to working with our community to hear their ideas on the next round of the process.”
The second part of the process is to prepare how and where the money will be spent and provide further information on the need for investment. This will take around six months. If successful, the scheme will begin in April 2013.