Castleford Riverside

Ahead of Wakefield Council’s involvement in the West Yorkshire Economic Growth and Development Conference we’ve been speaking to Leader of the Council Denise Jeffrey about the plethora of opportunities and their growth ambitions…

Q. The council’s 2036 local plan is set to map out the next 15 years of growth within Wakefield, what are some of the projects that have already been highlighted and how will the new plan guide the town’s development? 

The Draft Wakefield District Local Plan will include strategic, local and site policies to guide development and allocate sites for development, including housing and employment. It will also include policies to safeguard and enhance biodiversity, the natural and historic environment, including Green Belt and conservation areas.

The document sets out to provide a detailed policy framework which will guide development to:

  • Deliver sustainable, health communities
  • Deliver sustainable development
  • Address climate change
  • Promote a low carbon economy and technologies
  • Promote active travel and lifestyles
  • Promote high quality and well designed places
  • Secure inclusive growth
  • Safeguard and improve the environment

Q. Tell us about some of the strategic sites who’ve highlighted within the local plan?

The Castleford Riverside project at the old Hickson’s site has been identified for 3,055 new homes, 16 hectares of employment space and new transport infrastructure to the site. That is one of the latest residential schemes alongside 1,500 homes in South Featherstone which will include 9 hectares of employment space, and a site in South and East Knottingley set for almost 4,000 homes and 29 hectares of employment space. In addition other schemes include:

South Knottingley (156 hectares employment), South Kirkby (606 homes, 20 hectares employment), Calder Grove, Junction 30 M1, Wakefield (11 hectares (advanced manufacturing park), 100 homes, new transport infrastructure), South Elmsall (467 homes, 66 hectares employment), Castlegate, Stanley (48 hectares employment), Silkwood Park, Wakefield (11 hectares employment (undeveloped part of existing site), Land adjacent Silkwood Park, Wakefield (10 hectares employment), Ferrybridge (163 hectares employment), Altofts, Normanton (450 homes), Newmarket, Stanley (52 hectares employment (undeveloped part of existing site), City Fields, Wakefield (957 homes (undeveloped part of existing site), Calder Park, Wakefield (18 hectares employment (undeveloped part of existing site).

In terms of next steps the Local Plan will be subject to independent examination by the Planning Inspectorate later this year and only after that process has been completed can the council adopt the plan.

Q. The Council recently gave the go-ahead on the £50m Knottingley and Ferrybridge masterplan for the next 20 years, what do see as the core transformative potential of this new plan?

The Masterplan details how Knottingley & Ferrybridge can develop as a key economic growth town with enhanced skill levels, improved job opportunities and a high quality residential offer in line with the Council’s Economic Strategy, Housing Plan and emerging Wakefield Local Plan. It will provide new and diverse employment opportunities (around 855,000 square meters) to add to our existing business space offer so we have the diversity and flexibility required to attract new businesses to invest and relocate to our smaller towns like Knottingley & Ferrybridge.

The masterplan outlines how we connect new and existing communities to economic opportunities, particularly where significant economic intervention is needed to address in work poverty, improve skill levels for all ages, but especially young people and help to reduce the number of families living in poverty. It also provides the ‘needs’ evidence for additional investment into public services, for example schools, doctors, transport and outdoor green spaces, but will also be crucial in levering in private developer contributions to subsidies critical interventions in the town like Hill Top.

It will provide the basis to secure regional investment with WYCA, Homes England and other funding organizations for key housing and economic growth projects. The delivery of 2,600 new homes over a 5-20 year period to inject vitality and growth into Knottingley & Ferrybridge through a new residential offer, accompanied by a commitment to improve the range and quality of housing offered through both the private and public sector.

The Masterplan actively promotes sustainable design principles, which will contribute to the Councils ambitious carbon zero target. Examples are energy efficient housing, enhanced biodiversity and extensive cycling and pedestrian networks to encourage walking, cycling, and healthier lifestyles.

Q. Redevelopment plans have been lodged for the city’s market hall, how are you reshaping the space to be fit for purpose in 2021?

Our redevelopment of the former Wakefield Market Hal site (supported by significant investment for the district through the Cultural Development Fund programme) will provide a vibrant, creative and social space for residents and local businesses in the city centre. It will include an exciting mix of creative business incubation space, alongside social events and learning spaces for residents, supported by an independent food and beverage offer.

Our plans have been informed by feedback from a series of interim public events and activities, including the 2019 Festival of the Moon, as well as extensive engagement with the creative and digital sector. It will act as a catalyst for further creative and digital industries growth, connecting with and complementing other key developments, including Rutland Mills. We are hoping to deliver a further programme of interim activity in the summer, should Covid-19 restrictions allow, ahead of redevelopment works starting later in the year and a re-opening in 2022.

Q. The Council recently purchased the landmark derelict Art Deco ABC Theatre, yet plans have not been confirmed for the site could you give an insight into the rationale for the purchase and potential uses for the site the council is considering?

The Council has identified Kirkgate as a major city regeneration area, to be delivered in phases with the goal of increasing the city’s urban population.

The whole area from ABC cinema to Wilkos is included as one of the four key projects in the Town Investment Plan for Wakefield to create a residential neighbourhood in this area. Surveys are currently being undertaken and they are showing substantial damage to the building. Once completed the surveys will be assessed and future development opportunities explored alongside the Towns Fund Bid.

Q. How will the new enterprise zone at Langthwaite help catalyse wider development within the area and Wakefield more broadly?

The enterprise Zone offers a number of benefits for businesses locating at Langthwaite Grange. This includes:

  • Businesses that enter the zone before 31 March 2022 will receive 100% business rates discount for five years, up to a maximum of £55k per annum
  • As the enterprise zone is located within an area of deprivation, funding streams are geared to support businesses to locate to the area. This would be a significant advantage for businesses looking for grants towards capital investment.
  • Development of the Enterprise Zone will progress with potential for 24,000m2 of employment space creating circa 500 new permanent employment opportunities for this part of the district in addition to the temporary construction opportunities.
  • Enterprise Zone is targeting advanced manufacturing employment and as the site is first development site owned by WYCA they have a clear desire to make it an impact development that sets their standard for future development.
  • The investment would have a major impact in a deprived area of Wakefield – primarily in South Elmsall and South Kirkby Ward.
  • The Enterprise Zone is located in the spatial priority area and will enable economic growth, supporting small and medium-sized enterprise development by providing new high-quality space
  • The Enterprise Zone will seek to identify and implement green infrastructure solutions and provide a high-quality natural environment for people to live and work

Q. What is Wakefield Council most anticipating about the upcoming West Yorkshire Development Conference and what are you most excited to share?

We’re looking to learn from others whilst also showcasing the work that we are doing.a We want to look at opportunities to work with partners, public and private, to reimagine and repurpose our city and town centres. We’re planning to bring back new build house housing for the first time since the 1980’s and we have strong investment plans and plans to repurpose buildings across the city and we want to show this long term future thinking for the city which our masterplan delivers on.