Shop owners' plea to keep Piece Hall alive

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TRADERS have called for a radical re-think of how the Piece Hall is run to capitalise on its potential.

They are disappointed at this week's council decision to close the open market in the Piece Hall square in February.

Although the market had declined to just a handful of stalls it brought vibrancy to the historic grade one building, according to Jon Hoyle, who runs the Friendly Dragon.

And, Pat Steer, of Collect@ said it was time to set up a trust to run the Piece Hall on behalf of Calderdale Council.

The authority has ambitious plans to attract 16 million funding to transform the 18th century former cloth hall but traders want more action now.

Mr Hoyle said the Piece Hall had been on a downward spiral for several years and its potential as a thriving commercial centre ignored.

"A market brought vibrancy to the square and helped bring people in," he said.

Mr Hoyle said he hoped the council's 32,000 saving in the market's costs would now be used to better promote the Piece Hall.

"It is a fantastic place to run a business. We enjoy being here for other reasons than financial," he said.

Mrs Steer said the Piece Hall square should be used for many more events such as farmers' and continental-style markets which would attract more traders to the shops – many of which are empty.

But, the council with its other priorities was not fully focused on the building and changes at management level meant any planning continuity suffered, according to Mrs Steer.

In addition, council procedures slowed down action and she said it was time to form a trust with the council as landlord so interested parties could purely focus on the Piece Hall to attract more people.

"A trust would give us continuity and it should be here now," she said.

"We may not get the grant money. Where is the plan b? I want to see a proactive group of people working together now. The council can't be creative because it is restricted."

The council has said it planned to attract specialist outdoor markets in the future and the current market stalls – which had been paying similar rent levels for 20 years – could be transferred to Sowerby Bridge market.

Last March, The Heritage Lottery Fund organisers gave a huge boost to the ambitious multi-million pound transformation of the Piece Hall.

It provided 240,000 to draw up more detailed plans for the piazza and possibly 7 million funding, which would then help attract a further 9 million from other sources.

A final application is expected to be put to the lottery board in August.

* What do you think should be done about the Piece Hall in the short term? Email yoursay@halifax