THE FOUNDATIONS have been laid in a multi-million pound regeneration project for a Yorkshire town centre which aims to bring in a wave of new enterprise.
Work has now started on an 11-month programme to re-pave the shopping streets in the heart of Barnsley in natural Yorkshire stone and granite and install new street lighting and furniture.
Using a £1.2m grant from the European Regional Development Fund, the town council also plans to improve crossing facilities to lure private investors, visitors and local people back into the area.
Barnsley Council’s member for development, environment and culture, Coun Roy Miller, said: “This work continues the invigoration of the town centre, making these areas even more inviting will only increase the appeal.”
The project forms part of £35m overhaul of the town centre and surrounding streets being carried out over the next three years.
Demolition work began earlier this month on the former Central Library, which is being knocked down to make way for a new £17m sixth-form, which will be accompanied by a new parade of shops and offices.
Other plans include the creation of a new public square and the re-design of Barnsley’s indoor market. The market has been moved to a temporary location while the local authority determines a location for a new £4m building to replace it.
The bulk of the wider scheme is due to start at the beginning of next year and is projected for completion by 2018.
The majority of the funding has been raised by the local authority in capital receipts from recent asset and land sales, as well as existing borrowing and approvals.
A Barnsley Council spokeswoman said money spent on the scheme will have no impact on the revenue budget or ability to maintain its essential services.
Investment has been welcomed by businesses based in the centre, along with the Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce, which took part in consultation and oversaw development of the proposals.
Chief executive Andrew Denniff said: “Hopefully, with the first paving slabs being laid, people will be able to see the town centre project beginning to take shape.
“It has been talked about for a long time, but when we were in the planning stages we did not want to over-promise and build hopes on something which we then couldn’t deliver.”
While improving facilities for the retail sector is a key part of the town centre work, Mr Denniff was keen to stress the scheme is not solely aimed at attracting shoppers. “We are not just talking about retail, it is hugely important but there are a lot of accountants and solicitors based in the town centre,” he continued.
“It’s about making people feel more safe and comfortable to make it a place where you want to spend time.
“The arrival of the sixth-form will bring with it a whole new footfall of students and we need to make sure the centre is accessible to them and offers them something.
“There are empty shops but investors will only come if they feel the offer is attractive and think their business will be sustainable going forward.”
Mr Denniff added: “Councils are having to think differently about town centres so that they can offer more than just a shopping experience.”