Wakefield city centre 'split' warning as high street taskforce begins work

A total of 11 organisations are sitting on Wakefield's high street taskforce, which met for the first time on Monday.
A total of 11 organisations are sitting on Wakefield's high street taskforce, which met for the first time on Monday.

The collapse of another high street shop near Wakefield Cathedral could see the city centre "split into two lumps with nothing in the middle", an experienced councillor has warned.

Labour's Kevin Swift said the loss of another major retailer in the area would physically divide the heart of Wakefield and worsen existing problems on the city's high street.

Wakefield West councillor Kevin Swift said empty units in town and city centres were a greater concern than those on retail parks.

Wakefield West councillor Kevin Swift said empty units in town and city centres were a greater concern than those on retail parks.

It comes as a taskforce set up to address the big questions facing the future of high streets in the Wakefield district met for the first time on Monday.

Members from 11 local organisations representing the public, private and voluntary sectors in Wakefield were present.

Speaking at a scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall on Monday morning, Coun Swift said the authority should focus on empty units on high streets ahead of those at retail parks.

He said: "We've got big problems in the town centres, and on the one hand there will be a call for public intervention, and on the other hand not enough money to do it.

Wakefield's old BHS store remains empty, having closed in 2016.

Wakefield's old BHS store remains empty, having closed in 2016.

"I'm not saying empty units is not an issue (in retail parks). I know it's a problem for those landlords. But I just don't think it's as much of a problem as in the town and city centres.

"We've got British Home Stores (BHS) standing empty at the moment. It will only take something like Boots to go - which looking at the number of customers they seem to have at the moment wouldn't be the strangest thing to happen - and we'd have the town centre split into two lumps with nothing in the middle."

The council is in the process of putting together a city centre masterplan which it says will guide all future developments in the area.

A bid has also been submitted for a slice of a £675m government fund for high street regeneration up and down the country.

Local Democracy Reporting Service