Plans for new Wakefield city centre neighbourhood unveiled as council agrees deal with firm
Plans have been unveiled to convert one of the most historic areas of Wakefield city centre into a new neighbourhood and community hub.
The plans for the Civic Quarter – the area around the town hall and county hall – would involve converting the former crown court building and Wood Street Police Station.
A deal has been agreed for the buildings, currently owned by Wakefield Council, to be sold to property developer Rushbond.
The council said its plan was to bring the buildings back into use as places where people can live, work and socialise.
The police station would become homes under the proposals while the court, which has been vacant for 27 years, would be used as a community hub.
The plans also include the former multi-storey car park on Rishworth Street, which was demolished in 2017, and Gills Yard. Coun Denise Jeffery, leader of Wakefield Council, said: “These plans are hugely welcomed, this being part of the recovery for Wakefield, and will help to breathe new life into this part of the city, its stunning buildings and support our goals as we continue to rebuild our district’s economy.
“The residential offer and the approach to the community hub is truly transformational and will attract more residents and visitors to our historic Civic Quarter.
“We have chosen Rushbond because of their track record across our region in revitalising and repurposing historic buildings, combined with their flair for creating new homes and their commitment to delivering high quality work.
“To be able to make this announcement at this time is fantastic and shows a strong desire, a commitment and a confidence to invest in our district despite the economic challenges shared nationally because of Covid-19.”
The plans are part of ongoing regeneration schemes across the city, including Kirkgate and Rutland Mills.
Welcoming the deal, Rushbond managing director Jonathan Maud said: “The Civic Quarter, with its fabulous collection of heritage buildings all along Wood Street, is an amazing and important part of the beautiful city of Wakefield.”
The council had previously acquired key city buildings, including the former crown court, to protect them.
The project has also won the support of Wakefield Civic Society. Its president, Kevin Trickett, said: “There’s been a lot of speculation about what was going to happen with these buildings so it’s really good news for Wakefield to see something has now been settled.
“It’s also very reassuring to see that Rushbond will be taking the development forward – they have done some excellent work on other projects in the region so their involvement here is a definite bonus.
“Converting the former police station into residential units is probably the right decision. If people can be encouraged to move back into the city centre to live, that will be a boost for the local economy and local businesses. Covid aside, Wakefield has seen a booming restaurant trade in recent years: this proposed development will give them a boost.”
He added it was important any work was carried out to a high standard
Detailed plans will be put forward to the council’s planning committee for consideration next year.