A new twist in the Piece Hall transformation saga has seen the man appointed to lead the multi-million pound development leave his position only months before the latest predicted opening date.
Sam Mason, who was appointed as Chief Executive of the Piece Hall Trust in 2015, has departed from the over-running £20m conservation and transformation programme.
He has been replaced by Nicola Chance-Thompson as the Trust’s new Chief Executive, with Halifax business man Roger Harvey as acting Chair.
The project, which began in October 2014, had been scheduled for completion in the summer last year.
Work on the scheme to transform the 18th century Halifax town centre market hall was said to be “nearing the final weeks” after being beset with delays at a scrutiny meeting held by Calderdale Council in January 2017.
With £7 million of public money invested by Calderdale Council, project leaders remained tight-lipped over the delay costs despite being quizzed by councillors.
Mr Mason was appointed to the role as chief executive and brought his expertise from his role as commercial director of the Science Museum and CEO of Brewery Arts, Kendal.
He said the Piece Hall would be ‘a massive economic catalyst’ for Calderdale and visitors would get ‘a real taste of Halifax, a real taste of Calderdale and a real taste of Yorkshire, rather than something they could get anywhere in the country and the world’.
When asked about Mr Mason’s departure, Mr Harvey did not go into detail and said the main focus was getting the Piece Hall open.
“Walking around the Piece Hall you can sense there is a real buzz about the place. We don’t want to be looking back, we want to be moving forward to the opening.
“There will be no delays what so ever with the change of leadership. We are just waiting for the keys to be handed over to us,” said Mr Harvey.
There will then be a process that will see the handover of the Piece Hall from the Council to The Piece Hall Trust once work is completed.
This will be followed by a 18 week period in which the new Heritage Centre, retail units, bars and restaurants will be fitted out before being ready to open to the public.
Councillor Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council, said: “We have been kept fully informed of the decisions of the Piece Hall Trust and continue to work closely with them.
“We look forward to an exciting future for the Piece Hall when the building reopens to the public later this year.”
Mrs Chance-Thompson, who has lived in Halifax for 12 years, is described in a statement from the Trust as having helped develop brand and retail strategies for retail developments and regeneration work in Covent Garden.
She said: “The Piece Hall is a very special place to me as I believe this building offers great hope and opportunity to many.
“I look forward to working with an experienced team and our partners to reopen this breath-taking building this summer, and to ensure it sends a message out to the world about what a unique and exciting place Halifax is.”