These are the £25 million plans to change the old Wakefield Westgate railway station into a hotel and revamp Kirkgate

Wakefield has been awarded £24.9 million to invest in projects to revamp its centre as part of a major effort to boost the district’s tourism sector and make the city a better place to live.

By James Carney
Thursday, 11th March 2021, 4:45 pm
An aerial view of Wakefield Cathedral and the city centre
An aerial view of Wakefield Cathedral and the city centre

The Towns Fund cash will go hand in hand with £4m set to be approved by Wakefield Council’s cabinet to invest in digital and creative industries.

And senior councillors are also set to approve a £78,500 tourism recovery plan when cabinet meets on Tuesday.

Together, the schemes form a blueprint for city to fulfil its potential.

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Projects suggested as part of the Towns Fund include converting the old Westgate station into a hotel and accommodation, better connections to the Bread Street area of the city centre, and more work to revamp the Kirkgate area.

A task force will now consult with the public and allocate the Towns Fund cash over the next 12 months.

Cormac Hamilton, the chairman of the Wakefield High Street Task Force and centre manager at Trinity Walk, said: “This is superb news for Wakefield city centre and testament to the swift, detailed work undertaken by everyone involved.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but given the strides we’ve already made in just over six months, we’re incredibly excited and confident in the future.

“This funding will enable us to realise some of our plans for the city centre which will benefit businesses, visitors and the entire city.”

Towns across the country were invited to bid for the grants in 2019 and the successful bids were announced in last week’s Budget.

Coun Denise Jeffery, Leader of Wakefield Council, said: “This is great news for the district, giving us a great opportunity to progress our ambitious long terms plans to enhance Wakefield, Castleford and our wider district and provide a welcome boost to our local economy.

“Our plans will bring more people to live and work in our city and town centres by creating vibrant communities.

“This funding will help us to move forward with our plans, and the investment will also support out economic strategy and support the district’s recovery from Covid-19.”

Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan said: “The Towns Fund money will be vital for Wakefield’s rejuvenation. These projects will not only bring in jobs but ensure that our great city has more and better quality housing, offices and public spaces that will attract more people to live and work here.”

The Towns Fund money will be awarded on top of investment the council has already made and will be making across the district.

That includes, over the next four years, the council’s capital programme of £355m of capital investment in the district to support the district, its residents and local businesses.

That investment will be used to drive regeneration and economic growth, while supporting schools and other essential services that the council provides.

Castleford was also awarded £23.9 from the fund but no other parts of the district were chosen by the government.

Business cases will now be put together and it is anticipated that work on projects could begin at the earliest in late 2022.

What kind of place should we be?

Wakefield Council and its task force have the next 12 months to make business cases for how the Towns Fund cash will be spent.

There will be official consultation with the public as plans are drawn up.

It’s a crucial time for the city and how it reinvents itself during the pandemic recovery.

And we want to hear from you how you think the money should be best spent and the direction we should go.

What is the difference this money could make and what identity should we have as a city?

Email [email protected] with your ideas.