Westgate to be given £2m facelift?

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Neglected night club and takeaway buildings, as well as the Theatre Royal, could be restored as part of a £2m project to improve the Westgate gateway into the city.

Properties along the street and its yards were formerly used as banks, offices, warehouses and coaching inns.

And the route is recognised as a conservation area, due to its mix of Victorian and Georgian architecture and industrial heritage sites.

But now, many of the buildings are home to bars, night clubs and takeaways.

And senior councillors at Wakefield Council heard this week that several of the historic properties were “under used, neglected and in need or repair”.

A report to the council’s cabinet said: “The buildings are suffering from a lack of maintenance and decline that has been ongoing for a number of years. The large ones struggle in terms of their limited uses and the predominance in this area of a struggling nighttime economy.”

Members voted in favour of applying for £1.5m in cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Townscape Heritage scheme, designed to regenerate “economically disadvantaged” historic areas. December is the last time the grant will be available to apply for.

The money would be used to work with building owners to repair and restore properties, and increase the amount of usable floor space in the buildings to provide new business opportunities.

It will complement the work of Wakefield’s new Business Improvement District (BID), which aims to make the city a better place to live, work, visit and do business.

Coun Denise Jeffery, the council’s cabinet member for economic growth and regeneration, said: “Westgate is an important route into Wakefield and there are a large number of buildings in the conservation area that could benefit from this additional support.”

The scheme aims to transform the appearance of the conservation area and boost the Westgate economy. It will also see blue plaques installed informing people about the heritage of the area.

Kevin Trickett, president of Wakefield Civic Society, and a member of BID, said: “Westgate is one of the key entry points into the city. A lot of buildings went over into the night time economy sector but that is not as strong as it was.

“During the day, it’s dead. Most places are shut. What is there to attract people to come into Westgate in the day? It’s just a route for traffic. Anything that will improve the look of the street and open up the yards is a good thing. People will come when they see regeneration starting.”

Mr Trickett said he would like to see restored frontage, residential opportunities, more space for daytime business and offices and the introduction of artisan and craft markets.

The council will apply for the heritage funding next month. A decision is expected in May, and if approved, the authority will then be asked to make a second application confirming it will fund £500,000 of the costs.

Work could get underway by the end of 2019 and is expected to take up to a year to complete.