‘Private investment is not the answer’

“Heritage could unlock investment cash” (letter of the week, Express April 18) is an unrealistic vision and demands challenge.

Wakefield’s waterfront may be attractive to developers given the considerable private and public investment that has gone into Wakefield, whereas Pontefract which has suffered neglect in comparison has few attractions for investors. Tesco is not proceeding with its Pontefract expansion and several prime properties lie empty, unwanted by private developers.

Three Pontefract heritage sites are at risk: the Magistrates’ Court, Counting House and the Dispensary and Hermitage.

There is no hint of plans for the courthouse apart from the suggestion of the Liquorice Museum (Express April 11 and 18).

The Counting House is a salutary example of private enterprise having care of a heritage site, given its present dilapidated condition.

The Dispensary and Hermitage are owned by the NHS whose core responsibility is provision of healthcare and for whom heritage has a low priority, especially given its considerable financial pressures.

Therefore it falls to the local community to take action and local community groups are doing so: Pontefract Civic Society; Pontefract Town Centre Partnership; Friends of Pontefract Castle, Pontefract Park and Friarwood Valley Gardens; Pontefract Dispensary and Hermitage Action Group; and Pontefract Groups Together.

These community action groups are already working with Wakefield Council and the Hospital Trust and intend to engage with private investors to ensure the protection and preservation of Pontefract’s heritage.

Investment will be needed from various funds and from private developers, but for that investment to materialise we need viable and robust plans for our heritage sites and strong local community support and involvement is essential to show that Pontefract is worth the investment.

We cannot rely on Wetherspoons or Tesco for Pontefract’s future, get involved with one of these groups and help save our heritage.

Dr Colin White

Chairman

Pontefract Dispensary and Hermitage Action Group