Millions in funding secured to renovate busy Wakefield street

A multi-million pound project to revitalise Wakefield city centre has been confirmed, with almost £4m in funding promised.

Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 5:15 pm
Updated Tuesday, 22nd September 2020, 5:18 pm
A multi-million pound project to revitalise Wakefield city centre has been confirmed, with almost £4m in funding promised. Westgate is pictured in 2016.

Wakefield Council have confirmed plans to match the £1.9m funding provided by Historic England to renovate buildings on Upper Westgate.

At least 20 buildings will be restored, for both residential and business use, as part of a new scheme to put the street's historic beauty on show

Cllr Darren Byford, Wakefield Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and Regeneration, said: “It is great news that we’ve been awarded £1.9m from Historic England.

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“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic the Council and its partners have been helping businesses to access vital funds and support. This is yet another way of how we are showing our support to businesses in our recovery phase.

“Conservation work will ensure the exceptional Georgian and Victorian buildings of historic interest are protected, as well as preserving features such as surviving medieval street patterns and yard areas.

“This funding is a positive step for our future and I believe we can revitalise this historic Westgate area, attract new investment and encourage people to work, live and visit the area. The investment will support our wider economic plan for this part of the city centre – supporting the area to thrive and grow.”

Westgate building owners will be offered grant funding to help restore buildings of historic and architectural interest, including making use of vacant floor space, ensuring all work meets the highest conservation standards.

It is also hoped that, following the coronavirus pandemic, a programme of cultural community activities will be developed to offer residents a chance to learn about Westgate's unique history.

Kevin Trickett, president of Wakefield Civic Society, said his team had already begun work on researching the history of Upper Westgate to help inform investment decisions.

It is expected that this information will be made available in a book next year, followed by the introduction of tours of the Westgate area.

He said: "It's something which has been talked about for a while. The council is working with property owners to improve the look of their buildings. There have been some improvements made by individual property areas in the past.

"There are about 20 buildings on the council's targeted list, but that doesn't mean other buildings can't apply.

"It's a high street project as much as anything, so any businesses or shops that are on the main street, and some of the side streets.

"In the past a lot of properties were residential, but banks and building societies moved in and then bars and nightclubs.

"The clubs, of course, are only open on a night and certain nights of the week. Why would you want to walk up Westgate when there's nothing in the day?

"We need a much more mixed economy on Westgate. We can bring people back to live in the city centre, some small businesses and workplaces. You start to improve one part of the street and ideally that will generate more interest and more investment.

"People want to live and work in attractive places, but when you see Westgate as it is now, you don't think 'This is a place I want to start a business."