Council Leader’s 18-month plan to end ’empty shop culture’ with transformation of The Ridings Centre

Wakefield Market and The Ridings shopping centre could soon be transformed as part of an 18-month plan to end an ’empty shop culture’ in the city centre, the council’s leader has revealed.

By Tony Gardner
Wednesday, 29th June 2022, 5:00 pm

Councillor Denise Jeffery said more leisure facilities were needed in the city centre to attract younger people as “shopping is not where it’s at.”

Other plans to increase footfall include screening sporting events and promoting a ‘cafe society’.

Coun Jeffery outlined the plans as she answered residents’ questions live on Facebook during the ‘Wakefield Question Time’ event.

Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery said more leisure facilities were needed in the city centre to attract younger people.

She said: “During the by-election Wakefield has been the focus for the media.

“What has irritated me is that they always seem to show all the empty shops.

“It is slightly irritating when we have got this vision for Wakefield.

“What I do want to do is attract more shopping into town and we need to really work with businesses to try to get them to come forward and encourage that.”

Empty city centre shops on Kirkgate.

“At the moment the Ridings is up for sale.“The Ridings was owned by the council in the 1980s and then we sold it to a private company.

“We do own the freehold and we are looking at what we can do with that.”

Coun Jeffrey said plans include putting leisure facilities in The Ridings including a bowling alley, zip wires and a mini skate park.

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Wakefield Council Denise Jeffery said more leisure facilities were needed in the city centre to attract younger people.

She added: “Shopping is not where it’s at at the moment and I’m sad about that.

“People are buying online and it is damaging our shops.

“If we do get involved with the Ridings – and it looks like we are going to – we are going to look at putting leisure into there.

The council leader said there was also a plan to relocate the city’s market.

Wakefield Council Leader Denise Jeffery

She said: “At the moment the market is not brilliant. It is split into two halves and we have been lobbied by market traders and customers about doing something about this.

“We are looking to move the market into Teall Street so it is all joined up.

“Markets across the district are doing well. It is just the Wakefield one that is not doing brilliantly.”

Coun Jeffery said the eyesore former ABC cinema, on Kirkgate, would finally be demolished, adding: “This year is the year that it will finally come down. It will be opened as a green space for the moment.”

Other plans include transforming the former BHS building to become an extension of the city’s museum and library.

Coun Jeffery said: “We need young people to come back. To do that we have to have something for them to do and hopefully we will do that.

“For the older generation the cafe society is expanding.”

She added: “We can’t do it overnight. I am impatient and I want things done quickly. But over the next 18 months we will see a real difference.”

Councillor Maureen Cummins, Cabinet member for communities, poverty and health, also took part in the question and answer session.

Coun Cummins said she hoped the local authority would consider screening sporting events to attract people into the city centre.

She said: “I would love to see people sat on the Cathedral steps with a big screen so they might be able to watch Wimbledon or one of the latest films.

“I grew up with the Ridings but when you do go through the Ridings there is an empty shop culture.”