Remember the ‘Tuscan hill village’? Now Peak District is inspiration for Barnsley town centre revamp

An artist's impression of how Barnsley town centre might look.
An artist's impression of how Barnsley town centre might look.
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Barnsley town centre will be remodelled with a Peak District theme if councillors approve plans reminiscent of an idea to re-invent the area as a ‘Tuscan hill village’ 15 years ago.

Architect Will Alsop’s plan was the work of the now defunct Yorkshire Forward regeneration agency and brought national publicity, most of it sceptical, for Barnsley.

The design of the proposed developmet is influenced by the nearby Peak District and its forms of hard and soft materials.

Barnsley council report

But his concept of a ‘living wall’ of buildings to surround the town was largely forgotten, beyond a new housing estate from the era being given a Tuscan-themed name.

However, Barnsley Council has now turned closer to home for inspiration and says its work to upgrade open spaces has been guided by the combination of hard and soft materials found in the Peak District, which straddles the boundary of Barnsley.

It is the latest phase of its work to modernise the town centre, which already has the Glass Works shopping centre, created from the old 1970s Metropolitan Centre, under construction.

The council has submitted a planning application for the work, which would also see permanent new outdoor market stalls installed and a glass-covered shopping arcade created, as part of its long-term plans to regenerate the town centre.

Councillors who will decide on whether to grant planning permission have been told in a report: “The design of the proposed developmet is influenced by the nearby Peak District and its forms of hard and soft materials. The interaction between different elements of the natural environment within the Peak District has influenced the layout.”

The new Glass Works Square would have a water feature as a focal point, forming a link between the Glass Works and the transport interchange. Proposals include an outdoor eating area, which would be a first for Barnsley on a large scale, along with market stalls on its border.

Both those factors have been drawn in as part of a plan to encourage visitors to spend longer in that area than they otherwise might.

But the plans include work at most of the public spaces in the town centre, including Peel Square, Kendray Street, Cheapside, Eldon Street, Midland Street, May Day Green and Queen Street.

Proposals include laying new floor surfacings, seating, litter bins and other street furniture, with a stand-alone disabled toilet earmarked for Queen Street.

Several Listed buildings, including the Civic Hall, the Yorkshire Bank building and White Hart pub in Peel Square would be affected by the changes and planners will have to take those factors into account before deciding on whether to allow the scheme to progress.

The report to councillors continues: “The proposals seek to enhance the quality of the public realm along Cheapside, Queen Street, Eldon Street, Kendray Street and Midland Street.

“Along Queen Street and Cheapside the development will include new market stall structures which will be arranged to allow for movement between them and existing properties.

“The redeveloped Queen Street and Cheapside will provide a route to allow for service vehicle access.”

Barnsley has underground Victorian toilets in Peel Square but they would be permanently closed, with the above ground structure removed, to provide an open space capable of accommodating ‘pop up’ markets.

The regeneration of the town centre in Barnsley has had a chequered history, with several schemes devised and then scrapped because of the economic downturn, before Barnsley Council decided to put its own money into a more modest redevelopment focusing on leisure as well as retail, a decision made by the rise of online shopping.

That resulted in a decision to keep the structure of the existing shopping centre, though it will be unrecognisable as its former self when completed.

Other major changes include the creation of a new cinema and an impressive pedestrian bridge to replace the town centre Jumble Lane railway crossing.