Castleford business owners could face legal action as council seeks to build ‘Yorkshire’s premier public spaces’

Compulsory purchase orders could be imposed on business and residential properties in Castleford to make way for two of  “Yorkshire’s premier public spaces’.

By Tony Gardner, Local Democracy Reporter
Thursday, 14th July 2022, 4:45 am
Wakefield Council wants to transform Castleford Town Centre.
Wakefield Council wants to transform Castleford Town Centre.

Wakefield Council is to consider the possibility of taking legal action so ambitious multi-million pound town centre and riverside developments can go ahead.

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Senior councillors are being asked to approve the use of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) “in principle” to meet the Government’s 2026 deadline for completing the work.

However, a report states that the local authority is continuing to negotiate with occupiers and will not simply “kick out” any existing businesses.

The proposals come after the council won a £48.8m slice of a £3.6bn Government funding pot to bring forward regeneration and investment projects.

The Towns Fund awarded £23.9m to Castleford and £24.9m to Wakefield in 2019 after bids were invited to improve transport, regeneration, digital infrastructure, connectivity, skills and culture.

Wakefield Council’s Cabinet are being asked to approve the use of CPO powers in relation to seven properties on Bridge Street and Aire Street to enable the ‘Riverside Destination’ project.

Properties include the former Ship Inn pub and neighbouring business units and flats.

CPO powers are also being sought in relation to three commercial properties on Carlton Street to enable the ‘Hart of Castleford’ project.

That scheme involves transforming Henry Moore Square into a “new vibrant and active heart of the town centre.”

A report to the Council’s Cabinet states: “Subsequent demolition will facilitate the delivery of our proposals.

“Currently, some landowners have established a position that would see a sale price substantially in excess of the market value and therefore terms have not been agreed.”

“Acquisition of the land identified is critical to project delivery.

“Failure to acquire in a timely manner will result in delays to the project.”

The report states that CPOs would only be used as a “last resort”.

It adds: “The Council’s preference is to acquire by private treaty, following agreement of the value of property and any related reasonable costs.”

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Cabinet members are also being urged to approve the use of CPOs so two other projects in Wakefield can go ahead.

The report continues: “The Town Deal programme represents significant investment in Wakefield and Castleford, aiming to improve the urban environment for residents, businesses, and visitors, supporting the local cultural and leisure offers while also (particularly in the case of the Castleford programme) improving transport links.”

The two Castleford projects included in the Town Deal funding are:

1. The Castleford Riverside Project

Formed of two sub-projects: the Riverside Destination and Queen’s Mill improvements.

The Queen’s Mill element of the plan does not require use of CPOs

The Riverside Destination project focuses on land close to the River Aire and Queen’s Mill

Currently, the river is largely cut off from the town and hidden from view by buildings.

The Council has already acquired property to the west of the mill.

The plan involves creating more green space close to the river and will highlight the Roman bathhouse, located nearby.

It includes bringing the currently vacant Ship Inn back into use.

The project aims to promote waterfront housing in the future.

A council report on the scheme states: “The project will realise the potential of the banks of the River Aire as a positive asset for the community, visitors, and investors.

“On completion, the Riverside area will be a real destination asset and one of Yorkshire’s premier public spaces.”

2 The Heart of Castleford Project

Focuses on Henry Moore Square, described by the Council as an “uninspiring” section of Castleford’s main high street.

The project aims to transform the area into a “new vibrant and active heart of the town centre.”

It will undergo a major upgrade, with a new enlarged square with new trees lighting and a sculpture installed.

The square will function as spill out space for Castleford One and other businesses located on the square, alongside capacity for pop-up outdoor events.

It is hoped the new square will also open up nearby Sagar Street and increase footfall towards the riverside.

The report adds: “On completion, the square will be a real destination asset and one of Yorkshire’s premier public spaces.”