Barnsley council set to buy Alhambra shopping centre in £4.5 million deal

The leader of Barnsley Council has said a decision to buy the Alhambra Shopping Centre is a major step in ensuring a vibrant future for the town centre, and eliminating the fear of job losses should the current owners have decided to close the centre.

The centre had an occupancy rate of 80 per cent prior to the closure of Wilko, but had been on the market for more than two years.

Today, Barnsley Council is set to sign a £4.5 million deal with developers to take ownership of the site, after receiving funding from South Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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But council bosses are keen to stress that while the centre will generate welcome revenue, the primary motivation is town centre regeneration rather than a commercial decision.

Barnsley Town CentreBarnsley Town Centre
Barnsley Town Centre

The deal signed today only transfers ownership of the centre, with detailed work yet to start on its redevelopment, meaning plans are at an early stage.

But Coun Sir Steve Houghton, the Labour leader of the council, said: “We think this is a huge step forward for securing a long-term successful future for the town centre.

“The Alhambra has been around for quite a long time but what has become clear is that the owners weren't committed to it and have been wanting to sell it, partly because of the change in retail habits and partly because they wanted to spend their time and investment elsewhere.

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“With that, and with Wilko's closing, it's brought a huge question mark over the future of the centre with both businesses and the public wondering what was going to happen.

“That really makes it difficult for the businesses and their employees to plan for the future.

“At the same time we've had this huge success at the Glass Works, which has worked incredibly well and increased footfall to the town centre massively.

“What we know from the Alhambra and from some of the more traditional shopping centres which are struggling around the country is that when they've tried to just maintain their original purpose (retail), in some cases it’s just brought them to an end. We don't want that in Barnsley.

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“So our aim with the Alhambra is to do exactly what we've done at the Glass Works which is to diversify it, to bring other types of businesses in there - to still have retail and to still the support the businesses we've got if they want to stay there, but to diversify it and get into other activities which can continue to increase footfall in the town centre.”

After the success of the town-centre NHS Community Diagnostic Centre - which has been cited as a reason for breast cancer diagnoses increasing by 22 per cent, as well as significant reductions in waiting times - council bosses are keen to explore whether other NHS services could be operated from the Alhambra.

Coun Houghton continued: “One of the things we're thinking about - because there are some huge health challenges in the borough - is can we build on the success of the diagnostic centre and have other public health services based in the Alhambra centre which would improve access for people and also put health firmly on people's mindset and lead to improvements in the health of the population.”

“If we can do that, the combination of a successful Alhambra and Glass Works, will keep the town centre thriving for years and years to come.”

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