Council chief’s pledge: ‘It’s time to invest in the future of the south east’

The official re-opening of Whitwood Golf Course in Castleford. Cllr Denise Jeffery. (P521C234)

The official re-opening of Whitwood Golf Course in Castleford. Cllr Denise Jeffery. (P521C234)

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Years of decline will be reversed when investment in the south and east of the Wakefield district draws more people to live there.

The claim was made by Wakefield Council’s Denise Jeffery, who said a long-term vision for jobs and growth would revitalise communities in the Hemsworth and South Elmsall Express areas.

Coun Jeffery spoke to the Express as part of our Fair Share campaign, which is asking if your neighbourhood gets a raw deal when it comes to investment in housing and infrastructure.

People living in the south and east of the district have told us of their frustration that millions have been spent in central Wakefield while communities still struggling with the demise of coal mining in the 1980s miss out.

But Coun Jeffery, portfolio holder for regeneration, said: “It’s the Five Towns and south east’s turn now.

“There is a perception that everything happens in Wakefield and people do want to come and invest in the city centre.

“But I feel this is a promising time for the Five Towns and the south east and we have been encouraging investment in these areas.”

Last week, we reported that work had started on a new £16m housing development at the former City Estate in Fitzwilliam.

Dubbed “the estate from hell”, an unwelcome nickname the area struggled to shake off, revamp works were delayed for years at the site after it fell into decline in the late 1980s.

Now council chiefs hope the work, alonsgide other developments in the area, will deliver a boost to the area’s economy.

Coun Denise Jeffery, cabinet member for regeneration, said: “I first visited the City Estate when the old homes were there and it was like Beirut.

“It was absolutely terrible and thought it would never get off the ground but these kind of developments take time.

“I was so delighted when the work started.

“It means so much to an awful lot of people that live in that area.”

The housing development marks a new phase of regeneration for the Hemsworth area after Tesco opened a new superstore in 2008.

Part of the deal saw Tesco fork out millions of pounds on a new bus station and library in the town.

The company also built a new Grove Lea School on Grove Terrace as part of its agreement with Wakefield Council.

A derelict eyesore in Hemsworth was also transformed last October when pub chain JD Wetherspoon spent £1m redeveloping the Crosshills Tavern into the renamed Blue Bell.

Coun Jeffery said the council hoped the investment would kick-start further regeneration work.

She added: “If we can get more people living in this part of the district that will bring regeneration.

“Tesco and Wetherspoon have both invested in Hemsworth recently which says a lot about the area and we now need to provide more housing.

“We are currently looking into future opportunities for the Hemsworth area to bring further benefits to local communities.

“If we can get investment from private developments to run alongside what we’re doing then that’s the key to success.

“Officers have been working on these plans for some time but everything now seems to be coming together. It’s a long-term vision and project that has had to be done. It’s all part of the bigger picture which is to bring jobs and growth.”

Hemsworth councillor Sandra Pickin hoped the City Estate redevelopment would bring more people to the area.

She said: “I think the developments have lifted the area. People have always shrugged off plans and said they’ll never happen.

“But they can actually see that work has started and I think it really can help bring a boost. It will also bring new people to the area.

“I think people are now looking at our area as a nice place to live with new housing, a good community spirit and good facilities.”