Northgate development: 'Don't rush into change'

In Part 1 of our week-long series on Halifax's controversial Northgate development opportunity, Halifax MP Linda Riordan puts forward her case for retaining the town's library. Tomorrow we speak to Coun Barry Collins.

HALIFAX has much going for it; unique shops, attractive buildings, good transport links.

The old fits in well with the new. People of all ages enjoy what it has to offer as a place to eat, shop, and relax.

Let's be clear, improvements can be made. But changing doesn't always mean improving.

That's why, last year 16,000 residents said no to demolition plans for the library at the Northgate site.

There is nothing sensible about re-visiting a plan that was so firmly rejected by the people of Halifax.

So what could be done to improve the Northgate area? Firstly, we need to ensure the library building is at the heart of any re-development ideas.

The library is a vital component of the solution, not the problem. A vibrant hub, utilising Broad Street, the bus station and adjacent Council offices could easily be created. The existing library complex could incorporate new coffee shops, council information points, book shops, and much more.

No one wants Halifax turning into a chain store clone town, with the big chains dominating the ring road area. I am all for new investment, but let's be clear any transformative plans should think about the small shops, which are the distinctive character of our town centre.

I am not anti-retail, just anti the wrong kind of retail. If people want to browse the predictable shelves of the chainstores they can go to the White Rose, Trafford Centre or nearby cities.

Halifax needs to offer something distinctive, different and unique that attracts both locals and visitors. A rushed re-development of Northgate could simply result in more of the same and drive them away.

Let us utilise the assets we have; the library, Piece Hall and long standing businesses. The past should point the way to the future; we should not use the future as an excuse to destroy the past.

People develop an affinity with iconic local buildings. They are part of the characteristic fabric of the town.

A re-development incorporating global chains will only lead us towards Halifax becoming a soulless suburban town. So what do I want to see happen at Northgate? Firstly, let's walk before we can run. The last thing we want to do is sell off "the family silver".

Last year the message was clear 'Don't bulldoze our Library.' Let us see plans for Northgate out in the open. Then we can have a proper discussion about the future direction of Halifax Town Centre.

There is much to enjoy in our town. Let's utilise the success stories, not try and knock them down.

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