A community benefit company is seeking to run a Grade II-listed Victorian shopping arcade when Kirklees Council completes a £2.3m refurbishment programme in 2022.

The re-opening of The Arcade, one of Dewsbury’s grandest - and fondest-remembered – old buildings can be a catalyst for the regeneration of the town centre.

Kirklees Council, which bought the building in May 2020, has put restoration of The Arcade at the heart of its Dewsbury Blueprint, a 10-year plan to regenerate the town.

‘The Arcade - Dewsbury’ is a community benefit company aiming to become “preferred bidder” to take on the lease.

The idea is the not-for-profit company will run the building for the benefit of the town. Local people will be invited to buy shares and have a stake in the town’s future.

Chris Hill, a community business specialist taken on by the council to project manage The Arcade, said: “The Arcade in Dewsbury town centre means so much to so many people.

“The sad decline of this splendid Victorian building was a symbol of the decline of the town centre as a whole. In the same way the restoration of this fabulous building can herald the regeneration and rebirth of Dewsbury, making the town somewhere to be proud of once again.”

The Arcade, with its stunning glazed ironwork roof, was built in 1889 and generations of Dewsbury people have happy memories of it.

In recent years shops fell empty and the decaying Arcade eventually closed in 2016.

The building has 17 small shops book-ended at each corner by four larger three-storey units. There is also a second floor but some of the space is difficult to access, a problem being investigated by BDP Architects, a firm instructed in January 2021.

The plan is to turn the building into a retail, leisure and hospitality destination with the 250 sq ft shops offered to entrepreneurs, artisans, artists and other creatives.

They will all be independents with the drive, passion and enthusiasm to help create an exciting must-visit destination.

The Arcade - Dewsbury is planning a public launch of its plans in the Spring and Mr Hill said: “It is vitally important that we get the local community to buy into what we are doing.

“In fact if the community business is named preferred bidder by the council then local people can literally buy into The Arcade by buying a share in it.

“Shareholders would then elect a board of directors and it would be one member one vote, regardless of whether they own one share or several.

“At this stage we want people to express their support by signing up for our newsletter and, of course, we are inviting expressions of interest from potential tenants who may want to take space.

“Rents will be affordable and the terms flexible. We’ve already had plenty of interest. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic this is a unique opportunity to be in at the start of something fantastic.”