Today Robin Tuddenham, Calderdale Council’s director for safer and stronger communities, who is leading the £16m Piece Hall redevelopment project, outlines his vision:
I will always remember the first time I walked into the Piece Hall.
I was stunned by this beautiful building; the imposing sense of civic pride and the entrepreneurial ambition it embodies was right before me, and in such an elegant way.
After those first few magical moments as you take it all in, the untapped potential of the square and what it could become, hits you with equal force.
As someone who has been in Calderdale for two years, and immersed in the vision for the future for all of that time, I have grown to understand how it causes so much debate, passion and energy in the town.
Wherever I go, across the region and beyond, people talk about the Piece Hall; their memories of its past, and their hopes for its future.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to realise the Piece Hall’s potential for everyone who lives and works in Halifax, or who visits from further afield. But such an opportunity is always going to be hard fought.
We secured a Round One pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) in a different world despite it being only 18 months ago.
The demise of Yorkshire Forward and the challenging financial environment for local government has meant we have had to look hard at our plans and we have to do even more to demonstrate we can deliver.
The building is suffering the effects of many years of wear and tear.
Our detailed conservation assessment has revealed that the condition of the stonework is worse than we thought; it desperately needs careful restoration and extensive work to arrest any further decline in the years to come.
We also have to ensure we have a robust business plan that will not only transform the Piece Hall, and realise its potential as an outstanding heritage asset for the region, but also that creates a sustainable future.
In doing this we have worked closely with key allies, partners and friends.
We are in a competitive environment where we need to muster all the support we can for the project, and offer a vision that excites people.
We are currently consulting on our draft plans and I do hope readers take this opportunity to have a say.
In order to succeed, our grant application must show that plans for the Piece Hall’s future have been shaped by, and are supported by local people.
The Piece Hall can and should be a new town square for Halifax, a speciality retail centre for the region and a heritage attraction of national importance.
It will be a place to reflect on the past, to learn for the future and to while away the hours; have a coffee while our children play, better understand the history and heritage all around us though a visit to the interpretation centre, browse (and spend!) in the first rate independent shops, and stay on in to the evening for a great event, or dinner with friends.
All this, set in a totally unique, first-rate, stunningly beautiful Georgian building which is part of our shared history.
There has been much talk of how the experience of visiting the Piece Hall is reminiscent of an Italian square, or places like Somerset House in London.
There is something in this, but the most important element of the bid for me is to realise a future vision for Piece Hall which befits its status as a unique Georgian building; a fundamental part of the identity of Yorkshire, which will tell the story of its role both then and now in the very fabric of Northern England.