The City

 

The City Regeneration Team aims to help build and maintain Wakefield as an even better place to work, live and visit. Our current regeneration efforts are divided between 4 areas of the city: Kirkgate, Westgate, the Civic Quarter and the City Centre:


In addition, we are also working to improve the wider City area through projects on the Waterfront and also in support of the City Fields housing development near Eastmoor.

Our efforts in the City are guided by the Central Wakefield Area Action Plan (CWAAP), adopted in 2009 as the statutory development plan for the city centre. The key objective in the CWAAP is for central Wakefield to become (within 10 to 15 years of its adoption) a "distinctive and vibrant centre at the heart of the District's economy, making a significant contribution to the prosperity and diversity of the Leeds City Region and the Yorkshire and Humber region". The CWAAP followed Renaissance Charters for Wakefield published in 2002 and 2005 which helped to shape comprehensive regeneration efforts in the city focused upon the improvement of the physical environment and the direct involvement of local people in the process. 

To guide the next phase of the city’s regeneration, a city centre masterplan will be developed over the next 12 months. More information can be found here.

If you'd like to talk to us about our work or discuss how we might support an idea you have for improving the city, you can find our contact details at the bottom of the page.

Over the last few years the Council has worked hard with partners to deliver a number of major projects which are changing the face of our city. Here's a summary of the work we're involved in and some of our recent successes:

City Centre
Towns Fund

The towns eligible for support include places with proud industrial and economic heritage but that have not always benefitted from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas. Communities, businesses and the local authority will now work together to draw up plans to transform their urban centres with a focus on improved transport, broadband connectivity, skills and culture to improve their economic growth. The aim of the fund is to raise living standards and invest in transport, technology and skills to help towns to thrive.

A total of 45 places across the Northern Powerhouse and 30 places in the Midlands Engine are among the 101 places and each place can apply for up to £25 million, further guidance on the application process will be released shortly.

The Wakefield Taskforce will set plans and oversee work associated with the Fund. The Taskforce will produce a Town Investment Plan and inform the Town Deal. More information on the Taskforce and the Towns Fund is available here.

It is anticipated that the Towns Fund will assist with the recovery of town and city centres, post Covid-19. Wakefield Council are currently working on how this may be achieved to give the best outcome for the city. As part of the Towns Fund programme, Wakefield was also shortlisted to submit a bid to the Future High Street Fund. The Council’s ambitious £44m Future High Street proposal was finalised in May 2020 and we await a Government announcement on our success in autumn 2020.

Future High Street Fund

Since Wakefield City was selected to progress into the second stage of the application process for up to £25million via the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government (MCHLG), the Council has been working on ambitious plans to help transform the city centre.

Our scheme focuses on attracting more people into the city centre, to make Wakefield a more vibrant place with the proposals being a catalyst for wider economic development benefits. To do this, our proposal is to build an iconic, modern central hub to house the library, museum and art gallery. The new Wakefield Centre will have world class exhibits and the Council hopes to work in partnership with the YSP (Yorkshire Sculpture Park), The Hepworth Wakefield, Wakefield Theatre Royal amongst many others to provide a varied offer to attract a wide audience, from within the district and beyond.

In addition to the new centre, the Council's proposal would deliver a new public square and events space to build on the successes of existing events and encourage others, hosted by both the public and private sectors.

Finally, an interactive wayfinding project would link the cultural destinations of the city with the high street. These ambitious plans will cost in the region of £44 million if they are to be implemented, so further work on them will need to take place if the Council is successful in its application for funding.

Other Successes
  • Trinity Walk, the city's major new 500,000 sq ft shopping centre (constructed by Sovereign Land, AREA Property Partners and Shepherd Construction) is just one of our projects that has delivered real change in Wakefield, our development flyer shows how the Council brought it to life;
  • Completion of a city centre public realm programme creating new public spaces and refurbished streets; and
  • Completion of significant parts of the Emerald Ring, a new circulation traffic system with new sections of road to reduce city centre traffic and a pedestrian-friendly central area (this includes the North Wakefield Gateway).
Westgate

Heritage Action Zone (HAZ)

The team have recently been successful in securing £1.9million in funding through Historic England's Heritage Action Zones. This will be matched by the Council as we seek to deliver almost £4million worth of investment to our own zone.

This is an initiative to create economic growth and improve quality of life in places. Working with local people and partners, including local authorities, Historic England is helping to breathe new life into old places that are rich in heritage and making them more attractive to residents, businesses, tourists and investors.

In Wakefield, our work will focus on the Upper Westgate Conservation area. More information on this project can be found on our Upper Westgate Heritage Action Zone page.

Merchant Gate

Merchant Gate is the name we've given to the area of the City that sits between County Hall and Westgate train station. It includes the Council's offices and the new multi-use facility.

The Merchant Gate regeneration project has been completed in partnership with the English Cities Fund, Muse Developments and Network Rail. Spanning 12 years, the scheme delivered:

  • The 90,000 sq ft Merchant Gate buildings, a multi-use facility comprising offices, retail and leisure space as well as 66 apartments;
  • A new mainline train station;
  • A new 1450-space multi-storey car park;
  • A townhouse development by Strata comprising over 100 properties;
  • Significant public realm improvements; and
  • Wakefield One, the Council's office building, which opened in 2011

A case study completed by Muse can be accessed here.

The final element of the scheme is the completion of a college building for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) immediately in front of Wakefield One. While unfortunate setbacks are likely to prevent the project from meeting its original completion date in 2020, we look forward to seeing this final piece of the puzzle open for business. A useful outline of the development (as well as some additional possible areas of work for the future) are given by our development flyer.

Kirkgate

Regeneration of the Kirkgate development area is led by the Kirkgate Development Plan. Some more detail on this was presented at a 2012 exhibition which can be found here.

The restoration and redevelopment of the Grade II listed Kirkgate Railway Station was completed in 2015. Together with the £6m Kirkgate Transport Infrastructure Scheme this improves connectivity into the city and to the Waterfront for rail passengers, motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

This area is set to see further change with the development of brownfield land, assembled to enable a residential scheme to be brought forward. A key site in this area is Chantry House. Together with the former Snooty Fox public house, this derelict office block will be demolished to make way for improvements to the aesthetics of the area via the delivery of well-designed and distinctive new housing. Our aim is to turn this key gateway site into a quality neighbourhood with a strong sense of place.

Previous development also included the demolition of Crown House, a derelict office block and in its place, the construction of the innovative and distinctive West Yorkshire History Centre building, home to the West Yorkshire Archives.

Civic Quarter

Redevelopment of the Civic Quarter is led by the Civic Quarter Development Plan. Some more detail on this was presented at a 2012 exhibition. The ambitious plans included development of a new University Centre and are shown in our Civic Quarter development leaflet.

Over the last few years the area has started to undergo a transformation. Progress to date has seen the regeneration of Wakefield College and the City Museum Site, the County Hall annex has been demolished leading the way for Jubilee Gardens to be created and the Castrop-Rauxel Square has been redesigned and pedestrianised. Coronation Gardens and the War Memorial have also been developed.

The next phase of regeneration involves the development of key properties such as Wood Street Police Station, the former Crown Court and Rishworth Street Car Park to enable the regeneration of the area to progress. An exercise to identify parties interested in taking on these sites and working with the Council to regenerate this significant part of the city, while being sensitive to the heritage of the buildings, is ongoing.

An example of our work in the Civic Quarter is the Heritage lottery-funded 'heart of Wakefield' project focusing on the rich architectural and social history of Wood Street. Some information about it can be accessed below:

Wood Street – The Heart of Wakefield

An inter-generational piece of work funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund about how people, buildings and events, on one street, helped to shape the Wakefield District. The project was delivered in 2016 and 2017 by Wakefield Council in partnership with Wakefield Historical Society, Wakefield Civic Society, Faceless Arts and Leeds Beckett University.

It aimed to uncover the rich historical and heritage landscape of Wood Street and document the role this area has played in the development and governance of what is now a small city. The outputs of the work were intended to inform future consideration of the area and have helped create a foundation for further funding bids to improve the city (like the Heritage Action Zone project on Upper Westgate).

About the Project

The project was heavily influenced by volunteers from the local community who helped to:

  • Create a Wood Street archive
  • Create a touring exhibition
  • Offer opportunities to take part in training and creative workshops
  • Deliver a project celebration event
  • Develop a web-based Wood Street heritage resource
  • Create a film about the heritage of Wood Street

There were lots of opportunities to learn about the heritage of Wood Street or to pass on knowledge to others in a variety of ways including:

  • Recording personal experiences of the area;
  • Training in oral history or research techniques
  • Volunteering at events
  • Providing space for exhibitions or workshops
  • Taking part in a workshop individually or as a group

In the Present

Students from The Springfield Centre in Wakefield took part in workshops with Artist Helen Thomas and Tony Wade from Faceless Arts, looking at iconic buildings from Wood Street and recreating them using silk painting. These art works formed the basis of the project branding including the backgrounds you can see here, and were exhibited at the launch event in the Town Hall:


Over 60 people attended the launch event, where they met Project Partners, heard talks about various historical aspects of the Wood Street area, took part in a silk painting activity of iconic Wood Street facades and signed up to take part in further research, oral history interviews or guided walks as part of the project.

Dave Hazard, Project Coordinator for Wakefield Council said "It was a super event, really well balanced with both activities and displays. People seemed to come in expecting a short visit but got hooked in and stayed for far longer periods. I was hugely impressed with how well it went, how good it looked and how enthused everyone was."


The Living Past

At the centre of Wood Street are four iconic buildings which represent many of the public services which have been developed to serve the public of Wakefield:

  • Court House, 1810, designed for the magistrates by local architect Charles Watson
  • Music Saloon, 1821, also designed by Charles Watson for shareholders
  • Town Hall, 1880 by architect T E Collcutt for Wakefield Corporation
  • County Hall, 1898, designed by James Gibson and Samuel Russell for the West Riding County Council

Their architectural importance and their importance in the streetscape of Wakefield are reflected in their listed status. Wakefield Town Hall and County Hall are listed Grade 1, while the Courthouse and the former Music Saloon are listed Grade 2. Even more important, however, is the part these buildings played in providing public services including education, health, housing, law and order, roads, waste disposal and many more. Both the Town Hall and the County Hall still house Council services today.

Public events and celebrations have also been at the heart of life on Wood Street, from the public elections of the 18th Century, which often ended in violence and riots, to the slightly more sedate, Wood Street Market events in 2013 and 2014.

One type of popular public event on Wood Street in the 19th Century was the Circus. Travelling circus was big business in the 19th century and there were a myriad of different troops that visited Wakefield including Cooke's Royal Circus and Sanger's Circus. In the mid-19th century there were hundreds of circuses operating in Britain. Trick riding was often the main attraction, but a variety of other acts also developed during this time.

Of the many circuses that visited Wood Street, perhaps the most famous today is Pablo Fanque's Circus Royal which visited in 1847. Pablo's Circus was immortalised by Lennon and McCartney in 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!' on their 1967 album release 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band'.

Pablo was the first black circus owner in the United Kingdom and his circus was one of the most popular of its kind in Victorian Britain for around 30 years. He lost his wife in 1848 to an accident when a second hand temporary circus building he had bought collapsed. He is buried in Woodhouse Cemetery, Leeds.

The Heart of Wakefield Film Collection

Volunteers from Wakefield Historical Society worked hard to uncover some of the stories of Wood Street and the people that lived, worked and visited it over the years. They conducted interviews with people from across Wakefield and beyond, recording their experiences of living on, working on and visiting Wood Street.


These helped One to One Development Trust create a series of films about the Project. The 'Heart of Wakefield Collection' contains an overview film and ten shorter videos about the project. 


The collection focus on how Wood Street came to be, how it changed, recollections of Wood Street from people who lived on, worked on or visited it, as well as looking at the different ways the partners explored the heritage of the Street. The films can be viewed here

Waterfront

The Wakefield Waterfront Regeneration Scheme aims to transform the southern gateway approach to Wakefield City Centre by creating a heritage rich urban destination with dedicated space for creative industries, leisure, housing and tourism. 

Development already completed includes a dedicated creative arts space at the award winning Hepworth Gallery, established within a landmark building of architectural distinction. The wider Waterfront project  included 52 new waterside residential apartments and 2 new build office spaces including office accommodation within the converted Grade II* listed Calder & Hebble Navigation Warehouse.

A key priority of the Waterfront regeneration includes the refurbishment of the listed buildings of Rutland Mills. The Tileyard Studios development of the site will build upon our initial success and will become a hub for creative industries with a national profile. Some more detail on our plans was published by the Council (available here) and a local newspaper also provided a good summary (available here).

For our development leaflet, click here.

City Fields

The Regeneration team are supporting the delivery of the City Fields development alongside Housing colleagues.

The Masterplan for this 375 hectare extension to the city includes around 2,500 homes and plans for improved school provision, a commercial park and new district and local centers that will offer health, retail and community facilities. The incorporation of paths and public artwork will maximise the proximity of the site to the River Calder and the Aire & Calder Navigation as the Council works with its partners to create the next generation of homes in the district.

Currently, our efforts include preparatory work for a new sewer to serve the site, consultation with artists to provide interesting sculptures in public areas and conversations with National Grid about the potential for changes to the pylons that cross the site with the aim of maximizing the land available for development.


Contact us

Regeneration Team

Wakefield Council
Wakefield One
PO Box 700
Burton Street
Wakefield
WF1 2EB

01924 306630