Calderdale towns prepare for some of its biggest changes they have seen in nearly 50 years

Some of the biggest changes in nearly 50 years are getting under way in Calderdale, which will transform its major towns.

By John Greenwood - Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 14th March 2022, 3:46 pm
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 10:32 am

Competitive bidding to the Government has successfully brought £36.6 million from the Town Fund to Brighouse (£19.1 million) and Todmorden (£17.5 million), £18 million worth of Future High Streets funding for Halifax (£11.7 million) and Elland (£6.3 million) and just under £2 million Heritage Action Zone funding for Sowerby Bridge, while £27 million from various funders is committed to a major flood alleviation scheme at Hebden Bridge.

Alongside major highways projects already under way including latest phases of the A629 work, this money will be spent over the next five years, said the council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration and Strategy, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot).

Elland will also see another major project when a new £20 million rail station is built there, with the first shovel expected to go into the ground on the scheme in spring 2023.

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Towns in Calderdale are set for huge travel and business investment

There is some initial downside as such major schemes were disruptive while they were being built and communication will need to be clear as work starts projects, and through them.

“We are sorry about this, but it is really worth it – we are going to transform this place.

“We haven’t necessarily been clear enough and simple enough in saying ‘here are three things that are coming up’ and making you proud of your town,” she said.

Examples might be borough market transformation and new bus and rail stations in Halifax, or in Brighouse’s case road transformation, work being undertaken by the Brighouse Town Board – including big plans for the market and a focus on industrial entrepreneurship and apprenticeships – and Environment Agency work which to help alleviate flooding at Clifton Beck – three big sources of funding, said Coun Scullion.

Amid ongoing things at Brighouse, promoting areas like the canal basin would be part of attracting people to visit – “it’s an undiscovered gem,” said Coun Scullion, one of the canals, rivers, reservoirs and hills that give Calderdale an all-important tourism boost.

Kate McNicholas, the council’s assistant director for housing, economy and investment, said in Todmorden’s case the Town Board were taking the lead and aiming to deliver projects that would “make a significant difference”.

At Elland, the railway station would be a game changer, she said.

Coun Scullion said good quality, reliable, rail and soon, and ultimately to be electric, buses throughout Calderdale and serving its rural areas would also be key, both within the borough and with neighbouring areas and across county borders, for example Greater Manchester.

“I think its really important that we have an idea of what the connectivity is, and the hubs – people travel in to Calderdale to work and travel out,” she said, with the new Calder Valley Line Community Rail Partnership set up between Calderdale and Rochdale Councils to apply pressure for improvements including line electrification.

The council’s corporate lead for major projects, Rob Summerfield, said Future High Streets funding included money for Halifax Borough Market, developing it as a place to establish a business, and building on its history as a community hub.

What unites the packages are goals of ensuring Calderdale’s towns are prosperous, strong and resilient – not just economically but also protected as much as possible from flooding and meaning responding to the climate emergency- reducing inequality across the borough and promoting local sources of food, said Coun Scullion.

“In some ways we haven’t said enough about the council’s role – we want things to be community led but the council role is behind them, very much as a placemaker,” she said.

By that, Calderdale is not a city but six towns with different identities and different needs, so the funding programmes have to be tailored for each.

Inspiration has come from major developments of the recent past, including those who regenerated or developed Dean Clough Mills, Eureka! childhood museum and the Piece Hall, all at Halifax, from the 1980s onwards.

“They kick-started regeneration in the borough and given us a base, a foundation, to develop across Calderdale,” said Coun Scullion.

The funding given by Government nationally was public money, and for many of the projects to come the council is the accountable body.

It also has to have schemes planned and ready when new streams of funding become available.

For example, it has been indicated there will be a second round of Levelling Up fund money, and the council will have to have projects set to go to increase the chance of a successful application.

Coun Scullion says: “We look after the public purse very well, we try to use local suppliers for things as much as we possibly can and try to develop project pipelines so we are ready for the next funding coming along.

“We are developing existing schemes, moving on to delivery and at the same time develop the pipeline – that’s what placemaking is.”

There are challenges – inflation, supply chain rates and the cost of labour – but also opportunities to develop local apprenticeships and use local labour, said Coun Scullion.

Stewardship was important, not only dealing with the “now” but also planning for the future of the borough in ten, 20, 30 years’ time, she said.

“We are trying to pool money and spend it wisely here and now so that the borough is good for the future,” said Coun Scullion.

Mr Summerfield agreed good communication was key – consultation over Halifax Rail Station was the councoil’s most successful yet, with social media and use of the internet seeing hundreds of thousands of people interacting, and major projects outlined and progress updated on Calderdale’s The Next Chapter website, telling a coherent story of regeneration and helping boost communities’ pride of place.

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