21 November 2007

Developing Sellers Engineering site

Society President, David Sumner considers the significance of developing the Sellers Engineers site in Huddersfield and Paul Barber, Managing Director of the developer Strategic Sites, explains how his company's latest project could have a major impact on the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

I first met Paul when he was with English Partnerships (EP) then Yorkshire Forward. Together with EP Northwest, they kick-started our restoration with derelict land grant monies. This regional aid followed the job creation programmes and preceded the millennium grants and the associated Regional Support, which culminated in the reopening in 2001

We were disappointed when the Huddersfield Town Centre scheme "buried" the canal, unlike that at Stalybridge, and we always hoped that one day a redevelopment opportunity would open up the canal again. It is particularly appropriate that a canal enthusiast should help regenerate Huddersfield and one in the private sector.

I travel the Transpennine rail route to Leeds regularly. Incidentally, Stalybridge to Huddersfield is timed at around 20 minutes compared with my trip by boat with Derek Cochrane and Stewart Sim in 2002 in 36 hours. I have noted more extensive residential redevelopment alongside the canal in Mossley. I wonder how much added value has gone into the canal corridor since 2001? Does HM Treasury look at the financial benefits through direct investment and the economic multiplier when it considers funding to British Waterways?

If we want to see further investment in new canal schemes (and even the maintenance of existing canals) I urge all members to lobby MPs and take the opportunity of reminding everyone of the benefits of our system of inland waterways.

Paul writes:
"Canal restoration seems to be a recurring theme in my life. During the 1980's I was Treasurer of the Barnsley Canal Group until my day job took me away from Yorkshire for a few years. In 1994, I returned to the county as Regional Director of English Partnerships in Yorkshire and in that role I approved the necessary matching investment to help re-open the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

I now run a private sector property development company and fate has resulted in me returning to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

Strategic Sites has been appointed as lead developer of the Sellers Engineers site on Chapel Hill, Huddersfield. As readers will be aware, whilst the canal passes through this site it does so in a rather unattractive concrete tunnel. This is due to the need for Sellers to run their business at ground floor level which would be impossible if the canal was in open water.

A deal has now been agreed for Sellers to move off the site and into new factory premises elsewhere in the town. As part of plans to redevelop the site, Strategic Sites is working with Kirklees Council and British Waterways to remove the lid from the concrete tunnel and raise the water level so that the canal will again be open for all to see. As well as being open to boaters, the site will also be re-opened to walkers, avoiding the current detour via Manchester Road.

The whole Sellers site, and an adjoining area of land owned by the Council, will be redeveloped as homes, offices, cafes and teaching facilities. Work on the Waterfront Quarter project is due to start next year and completed by 2011. Discussions will shortly take place with British Waterways about exactly how and when the lid on the canal will be removed and the water level increased.

Further details will be provided as soon as decisions are reached on the detailed programme."

(Plan and Artist's Impressions courtesy of Strategic Sites)