Huddersfield Town Centre Blueprint: Consultation on the Cultural Heart

Comments by Cycle Kirklees on access, movement and highway issues [June 2022]
The Kirklees Cultural Heart proposals form a key part of the Huddersfield Blueprint. The plans, which we generally welcome and support, will effect a transformational change to an underused and rundown part of the town centre. The combined facilities will attract large numbers of visitors and users – many more than the present numbers. This requires a focus on the travel and access issues to and through the Cultural Heart.

Given the urgency of responding to climate change, and the resulting need to reduce traffic congestion and motorised transport, there needs to be a presumption that future accessibility to the Cultural Heart will be by use of public transport and by travel by bike, e-scooter and on foot. To encourage behavioural change we would like to see these low impact forms of travel incentivised by venues.

A policy that facilitated greater use of public transport, cycling and walking would require modifying the road network within the town centre to make it more cycle, pedestrian and wheelchair friendly, with particular emphasis on routes to and from the bus and rail stations, safer ring road crossings, and progressive extension of segregated cycle paths outwards to all parts of Huddersfield. The proposed legalisation of e-scooters underscores the importance of designated cycle routes that can be shared by e-scooters.

The entire town centre within the ring road should be the subject of a maximum 20mph speed limit. Care should be taken not to expand parking provision in the centre when existing car parks serving the Stadium and the University can be made dual purpose (i.e. provide for peak capacity) and access paths to the key venues made more attractive to use.

The roads immediately adjacent to the Cultural Heart will in effect be part of the Cultural Heart and require particular attention. We welcome the demolition of the Market Hall frontage, and the opportunities this creates for pedestrianisation, and/or improved bus shelters and waiting areas, together with a new town hall entrance. Victoria Lane, King Street and Queen Street would all benefit from a major enhancement, and the long-standing proposal for a 2-way cross town cycle route on Queen Street and Cross Church Street should be implemented.

Within the Cultural Heart, movement between all the buildings and public spaces should be step free, and secure cycle parking should be provided adjacent to or ideally within each building, and in a quantity which anticipates a significant increase in cycling above present-day levels. Consideration should also be given to facilitating a centrally-located cycling hub that is partly self-financing and can offer secure cycle parking alongside a bike workshop, a café or a games centre. Examples of this model can be found in many cities of Western Europe and elsewhere in the world

Huddersfield University continues to grow and attract students and staff from the UK and overseas. It has always been a major, if under-valued part of the cultural life of the town. Its campus combines heritage buildings sensitively restored with striking modern architecture. It offers degree courses in the creative and performing arts. It is seeking to expand its “footprint” by establishing a health campus, generating considerable walking and cycling activity on routes between buildings and transport hubs particularly on routes parallel to the Broad Canal.

The Cultural Heart, the University and the town as a whole, would both hugely benefit from a major downgrading of Queensgate, from an all-day all-traffic through route to a restricted ‘access only’ road, with priority for cyclists and pedestrians. This would enable a major enhancement to be undertaken, eliminating the present physical barrier of the ring road, improving safety and air quality, promoting a street cafe culture and creating an informal events space.

Alternative traffic routes exist; they will need to be signed and effectively managed. A step change of this scale and nature will strengthen the attraction of the Cultural Heart and should not be shied away from because it may be considered difficult or controversial. In addition, the plan to improve the walking routes from the John Smith’s Stadium to the Cultural Heart opens up the potential of large-scale car parking making use of existing land within walking distance of both the town centre – but this will only work if the walking (and cycling/scootering) routes are attractive and part of the attraction of the destination.