Wakefield Council Leader Peter Box: How our Labour Heald Councils are Making a Difference in Our Towns
Published: Sunday 22 July 2018
Years of under investment from the Government, and their focus on larger cities is threatening the prosperity of many smaller towns and cities, that have been overlooked.
This has created widening gaps in prosperity between these areas. We need to make a case for more investment in places like Pontefract and Castleford for example so we can build on our community spirit, create a sense of purpose and boost prosperity.
This is why we, as a Council, are doing everything we can to continue to help make our towns thrive and close the gap.
Each place has its own history and uniqueness that makes it special.
Pontefract is a good example of the approach we are taking, by working with our partners and with the local community to make a difference. We are looking forwards, embracing the old, welcoming the new, and planning ahead for a strong and prosperous future for the town.
A key part of making positive change is through The Pontefract Vision which is guiding development and projects in the town, including new housing, until 2028.
Residents were asked to take part in a public consultation in January, which included asking their views on a wide range of ideas, from promoting Pontefract as a visitor destination, to improving transport connections, and addressing health inequalities.
The feedback was clear that people valued Pontefract for its rich heritage, the castle and Pontefract Park. They also valued the town centre and Pontefract’s location with its strong road links including the M62.
However, people said they were concerned about anti-social behaviour – an issue which the Council is addressing with a Public Space Protection Order in place in Pontefract Town Centre, aimed at reducing alcohol consumption in public places.
We are looking at how we can address other issues that were raised, including short and long term solutions for congestion, tackling litter and more facilities for young people.
I’m proud of the progress that we’ve made. The Pontefract Townscape Heritage Initiative is on track to restore 28 important buildings in the Pontefract Market Place conservation area. The project is preserving these historic buildings for future generations.
The £3.5m Key to the North project has also helped to make Pontefract a visitor destination by restoring parts of the 11th Century Pontefract Castle that have never been accessible to the public before.
Our council events programme further reflects how much we value our towns, as a vibrant range of family events with the forthcoming Pontefract Liquorice Festival, which attractsthousands of visitors to the town and showcasing what it has to offer.
Armed Forces Day at Pontefract Racecourse also brings people together to celebrate the contribution of our servicemen and women.
But without investment and support from Government the widening gap of prosperity between larger and smaller areas will only grow and I want them to recognise the importance of our smaller places.
For now though, let’s find every opportunity that we can to pull together as a district, recognising and celebrating everything we have to offer.