Calderdale Council’s ambitious multi-million pound plans to convert the former council offices and old library building into an inviting, complex for business, retailers and a crucial sixth form centre will soon be more visibly bearing fruit.
The sixth form college part of the development will be ready in the spring, with the first students set to start there this September at the beginning of the new academic year, with interest already high in the borough’s new educational offer, say partners Calderdale Council, Trinity Multi-Academy Trust and Rastrick High School.
With multi-national insurance group RSA signing a 20-year lease for office space at the complex, work is continuing apace to fit it out in the style the client wants to see, said the council’s Halifax Town Centre Regeneration Programme Manager Janet Whitlow.
Leaving the fine detail until the customer’s requirements are known is also a “shell and core” policy being used for the retail units.
Janet said a key point of the regeneration is to bring more footfall into more of Halifax town centre and the dual development of the site will encourage this, and take it a step further.
Northgate won’t be a monolithic building people just enter to work or study – an attractive double glazed atrium aims to draw people into the courtyard from town to take a look, with some space to sit and chat in some pleasant surroundings, right in the heart of the town.
Both college and office space will boast great views into the courtyard or out over the townscape to Beacon Hill.
Some innovative civil engineering has been applied to create a new staircase that is a key support of the building and design shows off the atrium to maximum advantage.
The finishing touches are being put into the sixth form centre’s rooms, with an IT suite ready to be kitted out, carpets being laid and whiteboards being fitted for teaching. The building’s basement will house a cafeteria and changing room space.
A key number for the project is 600 – that’s the number of staff RSA are set to bring with them in next spring from the town’s Dean Clough complex and also the number of students the Sixth Form Centre can easily accommodate.
In recent years Calderdale has seen students further their 17 plus education outside of the borough, at sixth form colleges in Rochdale, Burnley and Huddersfield but the new offer will change that, said the council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People, Coun Adam Wilkinson (Lab, Sowerby Bridge).
And the council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration and Resources, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said students who would be coming here had been given some say in the details, even down to the paint colour in the toilets, and the partners looked forward to welcoming them.
“They are young adults we want to see studying, living and working in the borough, and we want to encourage people to have a good education here from all over the borough,” she said.
Creating the college, business and retail elements had not always been easy as this as a refurbished building but the end results were spacious, attractive and first class, said Coun Scullion.
There were always nerves with developing such a key site but with the college almost complete and major business space filled, goals were in sight.
“It’s spectacular, it’s modern, its light – it’s a place of aspiration,” she said.
Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Multi-Academy Trust, Michael Gosling, said a talented staff were in place ready for the sixth form centre’s opening in September and over the past 12 months the project had been taken out to schools and there had been many expressions of interest from students in taking places.