Revitalising Wakefield

I’m usually an outspoken critic when it comes to developments in Wakefield. My view until recently is that the council and developers were making the city worse by creating monstrosities and disposing of good buildings. Take for instance, the hideous new hospital that blights the skyline and Trinity Walk, the shopping ‘centre’ that doesn’t have a proper roof. Whilst I appreciate the new shops that have moved into Wakefield as a result (Next, Debenhams, H&M) I wish they’d been housed in a building – but maybe that’s just me.

However, my attitude to developments changed with the Wakefield One building, the new home of the library, art gallery and some council offices. It’s a modern building that actually complements the city skyline and fits in with the surrounding area. Also cheering me up are the station redevelopments. Wakefield has two train stations and major work has started on both of them in recent weeks. I’m sure that the finished products won’t be entirely to my taste but the regeneration is certainly necessary and will hopefully give travellers a better impression than they currently get. Wakefield Kirkgate has been a danger spot for years and since it’s the closest station to The Hepworth it’s a very bad advert for Wakefield.

Speaking of The Hepworth, this week they announced they’re expanding into an adjacent mill this summer. I look forward to seeing the results of that. Wakefield is very close to becoming a culture hotspot. Down the other end of town there’s a bid to turn disused Unity Hall into a music venue and general cultural and entrepreneurial hub. Across the road, Theatre Royal Wakefield has received funding to help refurbishment and since a nightclub has become vacant further up the street there are rumblings that we may finally reclaim the so-called ‘Westgate Run’ of pubs and bars and turn it into something really special.

It’s an exciting time to be in this part of Yorkshire and I commend everyone involved in this turnaround for the city. I do, of course, have some further suggestions for improvement – if anyone’s listening.

  • Pay off the final businesses on Kirkgate to get them out of the old cinema building and rip it down once and for all. If you can’t think of anything to build there (no more flats necessary, thank you very much) then make it a public space, somewhere for people to relax after rigorous exercise at the new leisure centre.
  • Get some restaurants into the empty Merchant Gate developments, however you do it. The new station complex may help with this.
  • Encourage refurbishment of shops on the way to Trinity Walk. Currently, it’s like walking from one world to another.
  • Offer huge incentives to businesses to move into the stretch of Westgate decimated since Argos moved to Trinity Walk. The relocation of Sports Direct was a good start but with the loss of HMV and others that area needs some serious attention.

Have I missed anything?

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