Experts appointed for Piece Hall work

THREE specialist firms have been appointed to develop plans for turning the Piece Hall into an Italian-style piazza and town square.

LDN Architects, based in Edinburgh, has emerged from a field of nearly 40 to produce the vision for the building, and will work closely with business planners L&R Consulting and heritage experts Wafer Hadley.

LDN recently completed an extension to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and the 10-year restoration of Stanley Mills in Perthshire, a project which won a European cultural medal.

L&R Consulting has advised Sheffield City Council on its Winter Gardens, Hull City Council on The Deep and the National Railway Museum at York.

Wafer Hadley has worked with York Museums Trust, on Cartright Hall at Bradford and the Thackray Medical Museum at Leeds.

Mark Hopton, a partner at LDN, said of the Piece Hall: "The beautifully proportioned arcades contain one of the most remarkable public squares in the UK but it is a space sadly under-used."

He said the challenge would be to conserve and sympathetically adapt the Grade 1 listed building to new uses while turning the courtyard into a world-class square. L&R will be advising on the sort of businesses and events that might be attracted to the site and how it will be managed.

Wafer Hadley's role is to make sure the Piece Hall becomes a world-class attraction.

Calderdale Council has been awarded 239,700 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to work up plans for the Piece Hall, which are expected to cost about 16 million. A second bid for funding will be submitted in November.

The new town square will form a huge open-air performance and meeting space surrounded by specialist shops and high-tech offices and businesses.

The council's economy and environment spokesman Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said: "The Piece Hall can and should be a major driving force for the economic regeneration of Halifax."

Communities spokeswoman Pauline Nash (Lib-Dem, Skircoat) said the experts would be talking in detail to the people who care passionately for the building.

"It has been acknowledged as one of the most important in the country."

What do you think of the plans for the Piece Hall? Email yoursay@halifax