Piece Hall revamp will make Calderdale a real destination

Rev Hilary Barber at Halifax Parish Church.
Rev Hilary Barber at Halifax Parish Church.

In part 2 of our series looking at proposals to transform Halifax’s historic Piece Hall, the Vicar of Halifax the Rev Hilary Barber puts forward his case for redevelopment

Two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the city of Bath.

As I drove into the city there were great big brown signs listing a range of places to visit and outlining the package for any visitor, either who had come for the day, or more hopefully for the weekend.

It became clear as I wondered around, that the attraction to visit Bath was not simply the great Abbey, or indeed the water springs, but a totality of attractive places to visit all within the one conurbation.

Following on from the financial crash, some three years ago, and the buyout of HBOS by Lloyds Bank, Halifax has once again had to dig deep and seriously look again at the diversity of its industry in order to achieve economic growth and sustainability. The big question is where are the new economies to be found?

One piece of the jigsaw has to be the emerging economy surrounding heritage and tourism.

Unlike many cities, which were making ammunition and war machinery in the 1940s, Halifax has never been seriously bombed, and has retained its historical buildings and character.

Halifax is the gateway to the hidden gem of the Calder Valley, with some of the most stunning countryside England possesses.

Yet as a southerner and newcomer to these parts, most people I know who live south of Watford gap have either never heard of Calderdale, or certainly never visited Halifax.

This was born out to me last week when, at the Minster, we hosted a national conference for whom the majority had never been to visit the town ever before. Since I moved here in August 2007 there have been a number of projects that seem to have been achieved. Firstly some excellent work on The Shay Stadium, which whilst it is certainly not finished, it is well on the way, and a huge improvement for the benefit of the whole town.

Secondly, the Parish Church was re-dedicated Halifax Minster, and linked the town to a national map of Minsters and Abbeys and heritage trail.

There are other attractions too in the town: Eureka! the national children’s museum, which brings in 250,000 visitors a year; the Borough Market; Dean Clough with its restored mills and arts centres; the renovation of Square Chapel; the Town Hall, built by Charles Barry; alongside All Souls Haley Hill, Sir Gilbert Scott’s finest church; the regeneration to Shibden Park and Hall; Geoffrey Wainwright’s legacy of a direct train to London three times a day; and now Broad Street Plaza has cranes on site, kick starting a new day and night time economy for the town; and finally the Orange Box - a new provision for young people to be built adjacent to the Piece Hall.

The jewel in the crown has to be the unique Piece Hall (for there is no other), which would complete the package Halifax could offer not only Yorkshire, but the whole of Europe and beyond. This is the town square that has been missing, the place from which events of a high magnitude could be staged, and a place with a sense of pride, history, and confidence for the future can be realised.

It’s like the icing on the cake, and if the money is found and the town comes together to support the project, Halifax will certainly become a destination that everyone will want to visit for years to come.

That has to be good news for everyone!

* Do you agree with the Rev Hilary? E-mail us: yoursay@halifaxcourier.co.uk