Bid goes in to knock down council’s HQ

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A DEVELOPER has bid to build a Primark on the site of Northgate House and Halifax Central Library.

The Gregory Group, which is behind Halifax’s Broad Street Plaza, hopes to demolish both buildings to create space for the fashion retailer and other new stores. The proposal has been put to Calderdale Council leaders along with an offer to build a replacement library and archive a few hundred yards away.

“In our view, a scheme like this can only work if it incorporates the whole of the site owned by the council,” said David Brimblecombe, Gregory’s group managing director.

He said the aim was to put up a 100,000 sq ft two-storey building at Northgate, almost half of which would be occupied by Primark.

“For long enough people have been demanding more retail store space in the town especially to cater for the needs of younger shoppers.

“We have put a scheme together that would be anchored by Primark, with whom we have already had discussions.”

Mr Brimblecombe said he could not reveal what he was offering to pay Calderdale Council for the Northgate site but it was certainly “some millions”.

In July 2008, Calderdale Council estimated that the Northgate House building alone was worth “between £3 milllion and £5 million.”

According to Mr Brimblecombe it would make a lot of sense for the council to accept his offer. “As well as getting first class retail space, it would also get a modern library and archive.”

He estimated the cost of renting the new library would easily be covered by savings on business rates for Northgate House and the existing library.

The move by the Gregory Group follows surveys which show that fully restoring Northgate House, the council’s admin HQ, could cost up to £15 million, even though it was built only 30 years ago.

The main lifts in the five-storey building have been out of action for more than a fortnight and will cost tens of thousands of pounds to repair.

The council is still trying to work out exactly how much office space it needs and whether the 500 or so staff at Northgate could be accommodated elsewhere.

When plans to move the library were floated in 2009 there was a storm of protest and a 16,000-name petition. As a result, council leaders promised it would stay put. Following public consultation in 2009, former cabinet member Ian Cooper (Con, Todmorden) said nearly 95 per cent of respondents wanted to retain the library where it is now.

And in February this year, cabinet member Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) told the Courier there were no plans, offers or drawings “only an open debate on the future of the Northgate area.”

At least 1,000 people visit the library every day.

Should Halifax Central Library be moved to make way for a Primark and other new stores? Cast your vote in our poll on the right.