PRINCE Charles’s many visits to Halifax in the 1980s and ‘90s followed a sequence of events reaching as far back as 1978. In that year a huge campaign was waged against plans for a mammoth Arndale shopping centre, with three major stores and 51 smaller shops, in Market Street and Woolshops, which critics reckoned would ruin the rest of the town centre.
A public inquiry was held and the Arndale scheme was dropped in 1979 after Environment Secretary Michael Heseltine refused permission to demolish some of the listed buildings on the site, leading to the smaller “outdoor” redevelopment of Woolshops and Square that we have now.
But that planning battle had put Halifax on the conservation map, at a time when there was a growing movement for regeneration of towns through heritage and tourism. Soon afterwards Halifax Civic Trust published Halifax: The Case for Conservation, which highlighted the quality and quantity of the town’s underrated buildings.
Soon after that the national conservation body the Civic Trust stepped in with ideas for regenerating Halifax by capitalising on its heritage. In 1984 the Civic Trust published a major report Halifax in Calderdale – A Strategy for Prosperity.
A year later the Calderdale Inheritance Project was launched, with an office in Old Arcade, Halifax, and with a 10-year regeneration project called the Inheritance Decade. It’s task was promote the area as a good place to live, work and invest, “to inspire people to develop our tourist potential, our commerce, our manufacture... get people working together and improve our environment”.
The Inheritance Project sought funding to restore buildings and one of its achievements was to restore old Victorian shopfronts in the town centre.
A major scheme was the restoration of Upper George Yard, between Cheapside and Crown Street, but, though some buildings were demolished and a courtyard and beer garden created for the Brass Cat pub, because of the economic climate of the day, the major part of the scheme, the conversion of a disused warehouse at the heart of the site into shops and a restaurant was never completed.