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Lease deal paves way for Wakefield's Hepworth gallery

David Chipperfield Architects' proposed Hepworth art gallery scheme in Wakefield looks set finally to start on site after clearing a key stumbling block concerning land ownership.

British Waterways has agreed to lease the 0.7ha needed for the £26 million riverside gallery to Wakefield Council - the backers behind the flagship project at the heart of proposals to regenerate the city's historic waterfront.

The news brings to a close years of uncertainty about the exact timescale for the project, which will become the home to 30 original works by Wakefield-born sculptor Barbara Hepworth.

Two years ago, Chipperfield's competition-winning scheme was surprisingly turned down for lottery cash (AJ 13.11.03).

However, the council eventually landed a much-needed £4.9 million windfall through a resubmitted Heritage Lottery Fund bid ( Heritage Lottery Fund in surprise Chippo gallery U-turn).

It is now hoped construction work on the project, one of a group of buildings being designed by top-name architects in the West Yorkshire city, will begin early next year.

Phil Dobson, the council's cabinet member for regeneration, said: 'Our agreement with British Waterways is another significant step towards the regeneration of the waterfront area.

'The Hepworth Wakefield will be a world-class facility and will put this development and Wakefield on the national and international stage.

'As with all the developments planned for the city, the emphasis is on quality and I am certain that the people of the district will have real pride in what is about to be delivered.'

The gallery is expected to open in spring 2009.

by Richard Waite

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