Bold new vision for Halifax library and town centre

Piece Hall transformation project - Spire Site Library, entrance view
Piece Hall transformation project - Spire Site Library, entrance view

Mega-plans for reshaping Halifax town centre have finally been revealed.

Councillors want to knock down their administrative HQ, Northgate House, and replace the Central Library and archives by 2015 with a new glass building between Piece Hall and Square Chapel.

Piece Hall transformation project - Spire Site Library, street view

Piece Hall transformation project - Spire Site Library, street view

That would create space for more shops and perhaps pave the way for a new bus station.

A new drop-in centre for council services at Broad Street is also proposed, along with the sale of the former Heath Grammar School at Free School Lane, which would help to pay for it all.

Calderdale Council Cabinet last night recommended the scheme be approved.

A special taxi bus could help transport people to the new library, archive and education centre.

The state-of-the-art information hub linked to the Piece Hall would sit comfortably between Square Chapel Arts Centre and the town’s Industrial Museum, which could also reopen.

This is the key ingredient in a long-awaited scheme to solve numerous accommodation problems and help reinvigorate the town centre.

According to Calderdale Council, it would cost £6 million to refurbish the existing library and £15 million to restore the council’s administrative HQ, Northgate House. Both would have to close for months.

Demolishing them would create space for new shops, raise money for the new library and help pay for a “Customer First” office for council and other services, possibly at Broad Street. The library would assist in rejuvenating the Piece Hall, which is the subject of a seaparate multi-million pound lottery bid.

To make the entire package affordable, the cabinet has also recommended selling the former Heath Grammar School in Free School Lane, Halifax, which has been used for years as a conference and training centre.

The council’s economy and environment director Ian Gray said there was other accommodation available in Halifax for training purposes and for administrative staff, many of whom could get the opportunity to work from home.

Councillors have spent years trying to decide whether to restore or replace Northgate House which, like Central Library and archives, was only built in 1983.

There has been massive public support for retaining the library, although until now there have never been any firm plans for moving it.

After their meeting last night behind closed doors, the Lib-Lab council leaders on the cabinet issued a statement saying they had listened to public opinion, and the views of shoppers and businesses which want to invest in Halifax.

“We want to seize the opportunity to safeguard the town’s economic future, bring jobs and visitors and join together many exciting developments.

“It will ensure that Halifax becomes an attractive destination for shoppers, which is good for businesses and will give greater choice to residents.”

The proposals will add to the benefits of the soon-to-be completed Broad Street scheme, which includes a multi-screen cinema, a hotel, eateries and a car park, the £3.8 million Orange Box Youth Centre beside the Piece Hall, work on which is about to begin, the Square Chapel extension and the new shopping centre planned for Horton Street, which incorporates a 500-space car park.

The cabinet’s recommendations will be subject to approval at the next council meeting on December 7.