Historic cobbles may be kept in village revamp

SOME of Birstall's historic stone cobbles could be incorporated into the village's new-look market place.

Kirklees plans to rip up the famous features and replace them with modern, smooth setts – similar to those in Batley’s market place – as part of a 900,000 regeneration of the town centre.

But officers – under pressure from Birstall folk – now say they will consider retaining “sympathetic” use of the cobbles by relaying some around the town’s famous Joseph Priestly statue and other decorative features.

Funding for the project has been secured from the council’s highways budget (550,000), the small centres fund (200,000) and the heritage capital plan (150,000).

Work is due to begin in June.

Initially planners wanted to replace the cobbles with Tarmacadam, but that plan was scrapped after being met by stiff opposition from traders and locals who feared the history of their town was slowly being eroded.

On Thursday Steve Drury from Kirklees told a meeting of the Birstall and Birkenshaw Area Committee that the existing cobbles were a health and safety risk.

He said: “There are practical reasons why the cobbles can’t be kept. They are dangerous and there are health and safety reasons why they have to be relaid.

“Also, once they’ve been taken up we don’t know what state they will be in, or if they could be relaid. There are certain things that are just not feasible.”

But Mr Drury, after suggestions from locals at the meeting, said he would consider incorporating the cobbles into the new design.

He said: “I’ll certainly go back with that and see if there is some way to retain sympathetic use of the cobbles.”

Ward councillor Andrew Palfreeman (Con) said: “We insisted that the cobbles should be replaced by new setts because we knew Birstall residents would not accept anything else.

“Originally the market place setts were smooth, so it will look like it did 200 years ago.”

Bus links, parking and roads through the village centre will also be revamped.

l What do you think of the plans? What should Kirklees do with the existing cobbles? Send us your views. Write to Batley and Birstall News, 11 Commercial Street, Batley, WF17 5HL or email batleyeditorial@ywng.co.uk.