‘We can finally get some spades in the ground’: Regen chief says £24m Castleford revamp almost ready to start

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Major work to transform Castleford town centre is close to getting under way, a meeting heard.

Wakefield Council’s regeneration chief said it was almost time to ‘finally get some spades in the ground’ following years of negotiations with business owners.

The council was awarded £24m of government Town Deal funding for Castleford in 2019.

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It is hoped the revamp will increase visitor numbers and involves creating two of Yorkshire’s ‘premier public spaces’.

Wakefield Council’s regeneration chief said it was almost time to ‘finally get some spades in the ground’ following years of negotiations with business owners.Wakefield Council’s regeneration chief said it was almost time to ‘finally get some spades in the ground’ following years of negotiations with business owners.
Wakefield Council’s regeneration chief said it was almost time to ‘finally get some spades in the ground’ following years of negotiations with business owners.

But there is a strict deadline of 2026 for completing the work.

The council has already made a series of “strategic acquisitions” so building work can start.

Negotiations with land and property owners in Castleford have been ongoing for almost three years.

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On Tuesday (June 18), senior councillors signed off on the purchase of two more properties, on Bridge Street and Aire Street.

Pictured left to right: Lorna Malkin, chief executive of Castleford Heritage Trust, Chris Noble, chair of Castleford High Street Task Force, and Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery.Pictured left to right: Lorna Malkin, chief executive of Castleford Heritage Trust, Chris Noble, chair of Castleford High Street Task Force, and Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery.
Pictured left to right: Lorna Malkin, chief executive of Castleford Heritage Trust, Chris Noble, chair of Castleford High Street Task Force, and Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery.

Both buildings are within an area beside the river Aire which is earmarked for redevelopment.

The Riverside project involves major investment to make Queens Mill a visitor attraction.

Plans also include bringing the former Ship Inn back into use as a food and drink venue as well creating new parks and open spaces.

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Michael Graham, the council’s portfolio holder for regeneration and economic growth, told the cabinet meeting: “We are having a huge number of conversation with every business.

Michael Graham, Wakefield Council's cabinet member for regeneration, economic growth and property.Michael Graham, Wakefield Council's cabinet member for regeneration, economic growth and property.
Michael Graham, Wakefield Council's cabinet member for regeneration, economic growth and property.

“It’s all about giving businesses a chance to stay in the town.

“I’m asking cabinet to approve this and we can finally get some spades in the ground.”

Council leader Denise Jeffery said: “People have been waiting and waiting.

“The sooner we can get movement on it, so much the better.”

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Plans to revive Castleford were dealt a blow last month when Co-op announced it will permanently close its town centre store in July.

The shop is opposite the former Marks & Spencer building which closed in 2023 and remains vacant.

The Co-op building lies within the Heart of Castleford scheme, which aims to transform the area around Henry Moore Square.

But cabinet members said they were confident that Castleford’s fortunes would soon turn around.

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They said a four-day food festival, held on Carlton street last week, had been a success, as well as a Roman festival earlier this month.

Coun Jeffery said: “Castleford has been on a bit of a downer recently with the demise of Marks & Spencer and the Co-op.

“To have this festival for four days in Castleford, it has absolutely lifted everyone’s spirits.

“The comments on the Facebook page are usually critical, but we even got thanks for doing this.

“It was absolutely amazing.

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“It has made a real difference. It has been a breakthrough.”

Coun Graham added: “I have never seen Castleford so alive. Everyone was loving it.

“The first thing that everyone says is that we need more of that, and I totally agree.

“There is a cost that sits behind this but I think that is absolutely money well spent.

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“When you look at the physical plans that we have got to create that square, everyone is saying, ‘what are they going to do there?’

“Well, this is what we are going to do. We are going to have events like that. We are going to bring it to life.

“That’s how you get Castleford back on its feet.

“Hats off to everyone who organised that, it was fantastic.”

Matthew Morley, portfolio holder for planning and highways said: “The food festival in Castleford has been absolutely amazing.

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“I have never seen as much positivity around on the Facebook pages.

“They are not always as positive about our council, but everyone has been singing and dancing about it.

“It was good to see Castleford so vibrant. It just shows what we can really do in our city and town centres and help to transform them.”

Cabinet members also agreed to adopt a new tourism plan for the Wakefield district.

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The Wakefield district destination management plan aims to boost the economic impact of tourism by 15% over the next five years.

The council also wants Wakefield to become the UK’s ‘sculpture capital’ by 2029.