By GRAHAME ANDERSON
New life is set to regenerate the centre of Batley as work nears completion on a modern 29,000 square foot retail and food development on Alfred’s Way.
From July, the former Batley Shopping Centre will become ‘The Batley Plaza’, offering 24 modern units and a positive future to what for the past five years has been a run down and unoccupied space. In fact, the 40-year-old site has been completely redesigned in the hope of attracting both locals and tourists back to both Alfred’s Way and Commercial Street.
A 21st Century Look
The entrance has been totally reconstructed. Shoppers will also be able to enjoy a unique ‘Street Food’, area offering a vast range of tasty delicacies. There will be a revamped entrance and signage on Commercial Street, and a striking new stairway and lift has been created on Alfred’s Way to provide easy access to the retail units from the area around the Tesco and Iceland stores.
The new Plaza will also house an impressive café and three different sizes of unit – aimed at those just starting out in business, those looking for their first premises and established businesses ready for expansion. There’s a full package of support available – all businesses need do is pay the rent. In fact, there’s a real confidence all of the units will be taken up by businesses based up and down the country.
The project has become a labour of love for top businessman Zahid Iqbal and his company Z & F Properties Ltd, responsible for the purpose-built ‘Bradford Plaza’ shopping complex in Thornbury six years
ago. He’s passionate about recreating this recent success in Batley as he explained: to go in here.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin enthused: “I’m a huge advocate for shopping locally so it’s encouraging to see that a space that has sat empty for so long is being brought back to life.”
Struggling High Streets
The growth of out of town retail parks combined with the internet shopping trend has had a marked effect on high streets up and down the country. Batley has suffered more than most however.
The first shop to open on Alfred’s Way was also the last to close earlier this year. Candyman Newsagents was run for 33 years by the popular Dennis Fisher, who at one time owned six shops across the area including two in Dewsbury. The 82-year-old decided to retire after serving the community for more than 40 years. His daughter Karen Lawson said: “It has been sad to see all the shops close one by one over the years. Batley Shopping Centre had become a white elephant in the town. It is really sad to be announcing we are closing but it is an inevitable part of life.”
Leader of Kirklees Council Shabir Pandor told Asian Sunday: “ I am passionate about Batley & Its People and always look at finding ways to put Batley First.Batley has proven time and time again it’s a great place to invest and I was really please to meet Zaid and talk through his plans for Alfreds Way.
“The investment from businessman Zaid Iqbal is welcoming, exciting and his plans link into my vision on how Batley is at cutting edge of how it can regenerate and become a magnet for economic and social regeneration. This is a prime example of how private enterprise can work with the public sector. I am delighted we were able to help facilitate his plans to open a shopping plaza which will not only create jobs, but also see a huge boost in tourism which can only benefit our local economy and the fabric of our town.
“I’ve been to visit the site recently and I am really impressed with how things are shaping up and the brands already signed up to take up occupancy in the plaza. I am particularly looking forward to seeing development of the Street Food offering the Plaza will bring. It’s going to be a wonderful addition to the Batley community and surrounding areas.”
On the Way Up
A recent survey has shown Batley is one of the leading towns in England in terms of economic growth. Given other councils such as Doncaster are investing millions into establishing a trendy street food scene, Kirklees council are fortunate to have found an investor willing to put his own money into the area, creating jobs and a vibrant community.
Batley Business Association chairman Andrew Marsden, who works for Brearley Solicitors told me: “In truth when I first came to the area 27 years ago there were a few unused units in the shopping centre even then. So, the truth is this has been a long-term problem. Austerity, changing shopping habits and a changing word have all contributed. I got my first mortgage at The Halifax, based at the time within the shopping centre.
“Batley Vintage day helps bring people into the town from far afield. We need to capture visitors at any time of course, but as far as I’m aware there’s no sustained tourism drive going on. Mind you, we have excellent evening entertainment and eateries here now which will help bring others in from outside of the town.
“We have a huge Tesco in the area which certainly took people away from the shopping complex when it arrived. As you need to give people what they want, it’ll be good to see compact and viable units providing something away from the mainstream. If we can get people who regularly shop at Tesco to come and get other things at Batley Plaza, the future will certainly look promising.
“The development will succeed because of ‘the stubborn determination of the Batley community’, We don’t give up”.
Community Winning the Day
It seems both the locals and local businesses are buying into the project together showing a strong sense of community. This will help its success, as Mr Iqbal is also investing a substantial amount of money to regenerate the former Tesco and surrounding shops on Commercial Street.
“I am really excited about coming to Batley, it’s a town which has great potential and is extremely welcoming.
I am confident that the Batley Plaza will be one of my best developments for me so far, offering a quality shopping experience for the local community and hopefully encouraging others from outside of the city to come and visit too”