Plans to transform Barnsley town centre, which were unveiled years ago but stalled due to the recession, are back on – only this time they are 100 million times better.
The authority has stumped up £50million to prepare a swathe of land for shops, restaurants and a cinema and it is seeking developers willing to spend a further £50million to build them.
The original plan was for council staff to move into a new building so the old Central Offices could be flattened.
The move took place five years ago. The demolition only started in November.
Now it is full steam ahead.
The scheme also includes a refurbishment of the Metropolitan Centre, a 1970s concrete building still home to shops and more than 200 market stalls, as well as a new library and a multi-storey car park.
The authority is also keen for Network Rail to build a new footbridge over the nearby railway line so it can close a level crossing, partly because it is used by Barnsley fans on match days and is the 17th most dangerous in the UK.
Council leader Sir Steve Houghton said: “We are pretty confident we can deliver the Better Barnsley Scheme. Half the cost is coming from the council so we are de-risking it for the private sector.”
The work comes at a good time for the borough. Some 1,327 jobs were created in the first three-quarters of the financial year – smashing the 1,100 full-year target.
On its southern border, at Junction 36 of the M1, plans for a giant gateway business park are taking shape, while nearby Hoyland is undergoing a £4.5m transformation.
The developments come against a backdrop of savage Government cuts – a reduction of £90m over the last five years and £45m over the next three. That’s £135m off a £240m budget of five years ago. Headcount has fallen from 6,500 four years ago to 3,100 today.
Sir Steve said the borough’s performance was “remarkable,” – it has been shortlisted for council of the year for best economic performance.
“Our performance is outstanding given the context of public sector job losses and deprivation in the borough.”