I really must respond to the outpouring of negativity expressed by a number of your contibutors to Your Say last week, not least: Georgia May, Tim Kirker, B Darwin, Graham Rigby and Margot Atherton. I will aim to be brief but deal with each of their main points:
Georgia: the drawing is an ‘artist’s impression’ which is always produced for any proposed development and, by definition, it is not a scale drawing. When planning a new building architects will review changes to activity, technology,and methods of service delivery. Initial work has been done along these lines and the footprint outlined has been deemed adequate for the purpose. But do not expect an exact replica of the current library; as changing needs and system evolution willl be built into the new one. Tim: What you are referring to is an artists impression and the fact that it might have its solar geography a bit out in no way influences the discussion. As far as the “former Industrial Museum” is concerned, this is pure semantics grasping for another specious argument against an overall development with huge long-term benefits to the people of Calderdale. Strictly the Industrial Museum is, and has been, closed for some long time which is a great pity. However, CMBC are very supportive of the team who are aiming to bring this wonderful museum back into operation. The artist’s impression may show the new library affecting access to the museum – IF this looks like it could happen in reality then it is a problem to be solved, not a reason to stop development or force the museum to stay closed. B Darwin: There are, indeed, many good reasons to demolish NGH and CL, not least because both are in a sorry state of repair. The rebuild and maintenance costs of these two buildings are and would be huge, and we would still have two poorly built buildings, one of which a downsized council does not need for office space and both occupying a site which is key to the long term evolution of the town centre. The Broad Street Plaza, which has also been subject to similar negativity, is unlikely to be affected by any possible future location of the bus station. Broad Street is almost fully let, is already busy and has already generated twice the number of jobs - 400 - that it was expected to do. CMBC has a wide selection of properties across the Borough which will house their staff and free up property for alternative development – so no problem there – this is all part of a comprehensive plan. A significant amount of the development money will be contributed by the sale of the Northgate site. Graham: There is no intention to vandalise or demolish our Georgian and Victorian heritage, all that is intended is to demolish two old-modern buildings of questionable architectural merit. CMBC is part funding and has won a major grant from Heritage Lottery to refurbish the Piece Hall, which will link to the wonderful Square Chapel and Orange Box development as well as , hopefully, a re-opend Industrial Museum PLUS a new, state-of-the-art, library. I am sorry, but no major retailer is going to convert the ground floor of a delapidated building which was poorly designed for a totally different purpose many years ago. Modern retailers want a blank sheet of paper and as much ‘high street frontage / visibilty’ as possible – the latter point is why, from a retail point of view [as well as structural and cost], the library needs to go too. Margot: The important thing to bear in mind in relation to the Ipsos MORI survey is that they are an internationally renowned company bound by the rules of the Market Research Society. The random sample technique used is tried and tested as one which generates a sound data set from a representative sample of a population i.e. Calderdale. CMBC have not “ignored the views of all the people of Calderdale”, they are responding to a representative sample of all the people of Calderdale, rather than a self-selcted, articulate group who have a particular point to make and do not appear to be willing to listen to the overall well thought out, long-term plans for all the people of Calderdale. As a group of members and officers, we have thought long and hard about our proposals to develop Halifax’s town centre for the benefit of the wide cross-section of Calderdale people. We have listened to advice and comments from a wide selection of people; residents, retailers, business people, developers and pundits of all kinds before coming to this decision. It has not been easy, not least because of the vilification by a couple of well organised one-issue protest groups. We would not put ourselves through all of this if we were not sure we are doing the right thing I am confident that in five to 10 years we will all look back on these arguements and wonder what the problem was. In spite of the recession, I believe we are at the beginning of a very exciting period of development for Calderdale – watch this space!