Come on people – ‘Slide One Out for Kingsgate!’

The next phase in our campaign to stop the Kingsgate Shopping Expansion in Huddersfield is a side-running Campaign to Erect Kingsgate Water Slide Park!

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Yes, Kingsgate Phase 2 might well be on its knees for now because of Kirklees Council’s planning approval of the redevelopment of the iconic Palace Theatre in Huddersfield, which should ensure that Kingsgate owners W D Huddersfield can never build through it and thus not take out The Parish, the town’s premier alternative music venue, with it. Hopefully, that runs for several other properties in the surrounding area too, because who knows if Kingsgate 2 is gone for good?

While we wait for the next move from Peter Everest and co., we should inform you of a side-running campaign that perhaps originally began purely as spoof, through the form of two local news reports detailing plans to turn Kingsgate into Huddersfield’s premier venue for slip n’ slide action…

Look North – Huddersfield Kingsgate Water Park Development – 23.03.12
 

Look North – Kingsgate Swimming vs Shopping – 13.04.12

Thanks to those reports the campaign has even had backing from Kirklees Council’s Green Party Councillor for Newsome, Andrew Cooper. Now, the campaign has taken a new turn with the release of a campaign song.

‘Slide One Out for Kingsgate’ is a song dedicated to the dream of erecting a water slide park at Kingsgate Shopping Centre, in the hope that we can get this approved instead of more bland high street shops. The song is sung by local pop superstar Bona, featuring producer extraordinaire Hercalees Kelk and a triumphant solo from none other than Evile’s very own guitar king, Ol Drake!

The song is streaming below people, and now, more than ever, we need you to spread the word of this noble cause. It’ll bring a touch of diversity that Huddersfield’s town centre sorely needs, but more importantly, it’s a water slide park. So hit that play button below, and spread the word. Cos all we wanna do is slide! (Slide, slide, slide, slide…)

Peter Clegg

Bona feat. H. Kelk – Slide One Out for Kingsgate

The Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion: Palace Theatre approved!

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Resounding 11-0 in favour of redevelopment

Very recently, we promoted planned action against Huddersfield’s Kingsgate Shopping Centre by issuing direct support for a plan to redevelop the Palace Theatre, the historic venue that once hosted Harry Houdini, into twenty three student flats to accommodate 87 students, with an additional bar and restaurant. The owners of the Palace Theatre, Kirkgate Residence, argued that this would boost the local economy, the university and college, and indeed the surrounding area for years to come. We Must Obey, backing the Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion, wholly backed this, ourselves seeing it as a chance to additionally protect Huddersfield’s burgeoning alternative music and arts scene (with top music venue The Parish directly under threat from Kingsgate), and to retain vital aspects of its history and architecture.

After months of deliberations in an application that was vigorously opposed by W D Huddersfield and Kingsgate; that was yesterday recommended for approval for a THIRD time, we have some exciting news.

The plans were approved!

That’s right – Kirklees Council’s planning committee finally got decisive, not bowing to some emotive language used by W D Huddersfield MD Peter Everest when, among other things, he attempted to implicate that scaffolding work outside Kingsgate would endanger jobs inside, and efforts to state the flats would cause untold traffic problems in the area were described at one point as ‘clutching at straws(indeed, it overlooks the traffic issues that Kingsgate Phase 2 itself would cause). But the main devil in the detail is the decisiveness of the vote. 11-0. That’s right. All eleven sub-committee members voted in favour, with only the chair, Cllr Cliff Priest, and his Labour colleague, Cllr Ken Smith, abstaining. The decision was widely applauded in the council chamber and Everest was left to skulk off like the proverbial bulldog chewing a wasp. Face it Everest, you snoozed…you lost.

Mr. Simmy Sekhon, owner of Kirkgate Residence, says he has the funding and contracts in place to begin work in three months. The Palace certainly needs it – I pass it on the bus nearly every morning travelling to work and for such a historic building, it is in such a decaying state. I applaud any efforts to make it useful and proud again and more so for the overall good it will do for the town.

It’s just a shame that not everyone sees it that way, with local paper The Examiner skewing firmly in favour of Kingsgate by echoing Everest’s sentiments, from the off about disruption and loss of jobs inside Kingsgate. They’re still reporting that Kingsgate 2 offers 23 new stores and 900 new jobs, when a later report have suggested only 10 new stores, six of those large ones – therefore presumably less new jobs. Sure, I might be skewed the other way, but I’m a supporter of the Palace and against Kingsgate 2 and my views are purely those. Views. News outlets should be completely unbiased. Besides, if there are to be jobs lost at Kingsgate in the meantime – and believe me, I don’t want anyone to lose their job – the impact of Kingsgate 2 would surely have a detrimental effect across the whole town, as it already has. The loss of jobs in existing town centre stores, whether high street or independent, in the much greater cause for concern. So Everest, give me the proof of which jobs are at risk. And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll believe you.

With media like this and the spectre of Everest hovering about, I personally don’t think the Campaign ends there, certainly if we’re looking at protecting businesses along Cross Church Street which are possibly still endangered by Kingsgate’s Phase 2 proposals – certainly the word is businesses along that street haven’t been consulted, and that even then the various owners are unwilling to sell. It certainly won’t stop W D aiming to swallow up whatever existing land they can get. I would like to think that the Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion doesn’t end just because of victory for a neighbouring building that potentially acts as a safeguard to the Parish. If we’re truly about something, I’d love to see us carry on our work and at least fight for an independent local economy. Therefore, if you’re reading this and you’re already a part of the campaign, and even if you’re not; this is one victory in a wider campaign. Kingsgate 2 might well be on its knees, but I personally suspect Everest won’t take this lying down, even if it means every dirty trick in the book. It isn’t over until it’s truly over.

For now though, we celebrate. Congratulations to Kirkgate Residence, and a big pat on the back for Ian French for organising the supporting action for the Palace to help get it over the line. In fact, thank you to everyone who has been a part of this campaign thus far. Its a pleasure to be associated with you all.

This is hopefully the beginning of the regeneration that Huddersfield really needs – with its place as up and coming hotbed of live music hopefully now assured, we should now look to encouraging boosting its high street in a way not really considered by the likes of Everest. Through diversity and innovation, without blinkers and a view to changing where and how people shop.

And if Kingsgate 2 rears its ugly ahead again – we will be ready.

Peter Clegg

Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion (Facebook)

The Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion – protests Thursday 12th July, 2012

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Action taking place Thursday 12th July

A while back, when I was still basing We Must Obey on Blogger, I wrote a lengthy article asking for support for a campaign based in Huddersfield to prevent what, if it is allowed to go ahead, the potential damage to Huddersfield’s vibrant alternative music and arts scene, as well as more of its proud architecture, history, and indeed its local economy. The ‘it’ in question, is the proposed development of Kingsgate 2, an extension to the already existing Kingsgate Shopping Centre that will see it expand outwards by 50%, swallowing up the historic Palace Theatre, the Parish pub (Huddersfield’s premier music venue and oldest pub at 292 years old) and Oldgate House, all listed buildings, as well as numerous smaller businesses and reputable establishments in the nearby vicinity. Such a development, we argue, will lead to further cannibilisation to a town centre already struggling with numerous empty shops following the UK’s recession, stuttering recovery and indeed the aforementioned local effect of Kingsgate.

A ray of light has emerged in recent months that I have personally kept silent on the blog until now. The Palace Theatre, which sits over the road from the Parish, was bought by Kirkgate Residence who have submitted plans to turn the Palace, a former theatre that once hosted Harry Houdini, into 23 flats to house 87 students, as well as a bar and restaurant. A decision was due to be taken on this proposal back in March – however, the local planning sub-committee arm of the council have deferred the decision numerous times based on traffic flow concerns, despite concerns appearing to have been allayed by traffic officers and the developers. The latest decision, due just over five weeks ago, was again deferred after a corrupted disc, purportedly containing data showing the negative impact of increased traffic in the Kirkgate area in light of the development going ahead, was submitted at the 11th hour.

W D Huddersfield Ltd, the owners of Kingsgate Shopping Centre, are strongly opposing these plans and have made their case in person and in writing several times. They already have outline planning permission to develop Kingsgate 2, but failed to seize the Palace Theatre when it was available on the market. The Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Expansion, therefore, is moving to support the application to renovate the long derelict Palace into student accomodation for the long-term benefit of Huddersfield.

A demonstration is to be held on Thursday 12th July, setting off from The Parish at 12pm and marching towards the Town Hall for 1pm. It’s recommended you meet at The Parish. The protest is expected to last until 2pm, making our voice heard when the Palace plans are again put to crucial vote by the planning sub-committee. We aim to rid them of indecision and convince them instead to make a decisive decision on the plans for the Palace Theatre, one we hope will see the plans approved and Kingsgate 2 thrown into disarray and possibly KO’d altogether.

If there is anyone out there not already a part of our group but behind our campaign, your support is vital.

More information is available directly from the campaign’s Facebook page, where you can have your say prior to the day and be up to date with all information about the day of action.

Our voice will be heard. High street retailing as we know it is dead. Innovation is required. Through this action, not only will Huddersfield’s music scene be protected, so will its architecture, its history, and its local economy will begin to thrive – which is what is needed for Huddersfield to ultimately innovate – which itself is another battle for the future.

Thank you for reading. We hope to see you on Thursday.

Peter Clegg

The Campaign to Stop the Kingsgate Shopping Centre Expansion: The threat it poses to Huddersfield’s music scene and a whole town

To the wider rock/metal community, this next post concerning the plight of a beloved local rock bar/gig venue (pictured above) isn’t going to be of too much major concern to you. And indeed, this particular venue only makes up a part of the wider picture which is to be affected.

The Parish, Huddersfield, has in recent years played host to a number of recognised national and international bands, including: Ginger, The Scaramanga Six, Humanfly, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Gama Bomb, Bonded By Blood, Dragged Into Sunlight, G.U. Medicine, OPM, Agent Orange, Dyscarnate, Evile, Sorry and the Sinatras, Boyhitscar, Left Side Brain, Wheatus…the list could go on and on. It already was and remains more than that. It is without question Huddersfield’s premier rock bar, not doing too bad for itself in the face of larger venues further afield in Leeds, Manchester, etc.
The building itself is steeped in history too. Before that it was The Parish Pump, The Cornerhouse, and several incarnations before that. The building is also a National Heritage Grade II listed building.  It’s been around since 1720, the oldest pub in the town, and in 2020 – it’s not that far off! – the building will be 300 years old. An impressive stat for you there.
Which is why the news that Kirklees Council have signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ with Peter Everest, MD for WD Limited – a company specialising in bland shopping centre upon bland shopping centre -, paving the way for a £40m expansion of Huddersfield’s Kingsgate Shopping Centre, known as Kingsgate: Phase 2. This fact this expansion would swallow up The Parish as well as other landmarks, including Grade II listed buildings Oldgate House, and the Palace Theatre, is of major concern. WD Huddersfield previously tried to run through these buildings back in 2008, but the council then overwhelmingly rejected the proposals 13 votes to 2. WD won an appeal against the decision but plans went on hold due to the recession. Now WD think the time is right to proceed, and pictures showing Kirklees Councillor Mehboob Khan (one of the ‘2’) and W D Limited director Peter Everest smugly posing for photos with a pen and paper were plastered across the local Huddersfield Examiner newspaper. All this without proper consultation. The flashpoint for alarm was set off there and then.

While it’s all well and good investing in permanent jobs for the future it’s important to bear in mind the rest of the town centre, which already has several empty units, including several empty former shops running along New Street, one of the town’s main shopping streets. Every so often I walk down there and am almost running out of room to count the number of empty shops on my fingers alone. Look, there’s two for you right there (above)! Why the local council and W D Limited insist on further drawing people away from those areas and in effect creating a ghost town in its actual centre does not make sound logical sense, and anyone who’s walked through a town centre in the day time when there’s nobody about on the rare occasions the shops aren’t open will realise how eerie the sense of walking in an area full of empty buildings and no people can be.
The cannibalisation of the town centre is something that W D Limited say they are seeking to avoid – something which they initiated when the centre was originally built in 2002, with various high street names flocking to the centre leaving their former town centre units to pound shops, charity shops, or even simply vacant. There are empty units in town that haven’t been filled with anything for months, even years. The high street is a dying breed and expanding a shopping centre to take up a huge chunk of the town centre, destroying its local history and architecture and ensuring the town becomes as vacant as its empty units is not the way forward.
The claim that this development will create up to 900 new jobs (600 in retail, 300 in construction) doesn’t wash either. Why would we be against creation of new jobs? Well, we’re not – but the town’s centre has enough empty units without the need to build further, and in doing so you’d only have more shops shutting up, and more jobs potentially lost. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the figures don’t add up, and offer false promises in a consistently volatile high street.

Returning to The Parish, the argument of ‘save our local’ doesn’t hold up enough substance and never will, so regulars to the pub and anyone reading this post, wherever you are, should take into account the following points. It is worth bearing in mind the pub’s history (discussed earlier), it’s listed status (also discussed earlier), and it’s potential as a tourist venue in recent times – given that people will travel from further afield to see bands such as the aforementioned. In the face of venues in bigger cities such as Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, The Parish can be considered one of Huddersfield’s success stories in terms of an alternative venue outside the major cities, putting Huddersfield on the alternative scene map. Such things are nothing new, and Huddersfield is a larger town than many, but considering the live music power base lies within the cities; The Parish’s achievement is no small feat.

The Parish only makes up a small part of the wider picture here, but is still an important one, and make no mistake; the wider implications for Huddersfield‘s music scene and indeed the town as a whole are massive. It’s listed status doesn’t make it invincible, thoughh it is pretty damn important, and the wave of feeling within the community is huge. The project is expected to be completed in 2016, so the threat, while not imminent, still looms large, and given we tried to back The Well before its closure, its only fair we try and do the same for what is essentially our hometown venue and indeed our home town. The high street is in need of innovation – not overpopulation and cannibalisation.
That’s why a campaign has been launched to try to stop the expansion of the Kingsgate Shopping Centre in the wake of this news. A public meeting is due to be kindly hosted by The Parish this Saturday (31st March) from 2:00pm-5:00pm. Anyone can attend as the group aims to establish a plan of action to fight off this threat. All the points made above in this article and more will be discussed. I’m aware that this meeting is likely to concern local folk more than the majority of We Must Obey’s audience, but we aim to support our local scene where we can. Even if you’re not local, even if you’re reading this from another country, any support would be greatly appreciated, even if it’s just liking the group on Facebook. This is to be the start of a fight we intend to win, however stacked against us the odds may be.
You can find a wealth of information and discussion on the group’s Facebook page as well as a wealth of links to material and other resources to do with this particular protest. The reasons for our campaign are not fully listed here as this is primarily a music website and not one that always dedicates itself to external issues. Where they converge upon musical territory, and indeed where it looms large over our local burgeoning music scene, we must stand up for ourselves. History tells us councillors, politicians and suited fat cats do not listen to the demands of the people. This is something we must change, and change fast.
Peter Clegg