Wakefield shoppers are 'too afraid' to walk around neglected Kirkgate

Shoppers are being put off going to the bottom of Kirkgate, according to businesses.
Shoppers are being put off going to the bottom of Kirkgate, according to businesses.

Traders in the Kirkgate area of Wakefield said the bottom of the city centre was being neglected despite regeneration projects.

The past decade has seen a revamp to Wakefield Kirkgate Station, the opening of the Hepworth gallery, the redevelopment of Kirkgate roundabout, and the opening of the new West Yorkshire History Centre.

And Wakefield Council recently completed a £57,000 project to improve the cathedral precinct and encourage shoppers back into the area with benches and trees tidied up, and lampposts repainted.

But business people on Kirkgate said there were bigger underlying problems putting shoppers off and many of the bigger projects over the past few years have done little to improve footfall.

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Street drinking, drug use, aggressive begging and antisocial behaviour remained the big problems on Kirkgate, they said.

Laurence Larby, who works at a bed shop on Kirkgate, said: “This is the main boulevard, it should be gleaming but there’s no way would you want to come this way. You may as well get the bus to Leeds.

“It needs to be a lot more secure. When I come in as a consumer wanting to buy something with my little girl she’s quite afraid coming on this thoroughfare because there’s that many people drinking and swearing.

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“They’re quite intimidating because they hang round in groups.

“This should be top of the list – there’s the cathedral and all the lines of shops. The majority of them are shut and you can understand why. Because the business isn’t walking through the door and I believe the council not taking enough action about drinkers on the street. It should be first and foremost.”

The police and council have brought in various schemes to try to combat anti-social behaviour in the city including a radio system for traders and SmartWater tagging so cans of strong alcohol can be traced back to shop they were sold from.

Powers are also available to ban repeat offenders from the city centre.

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Glynn Humphries, service director for environment and streetscene at Wakefield Council, said: “Wakefield Council is working with partner agencies to address anti-social behaviour in Wakefield city centre.

“Wakefield Council and the Police have successfully obtained Court Criminal Behaviour Orders banning individuals that have caused anti-social behaviour from entering the city centre and are actively working together to address the problem.”