Council to spend more than £8m improving town centre streets in Barnsley

Work to improve Barnsley town centre by repaving Market Hill, Regent Street and surrounding thoroughfares has left the council with a maintenance 'burden' because the materials used to give the areas a new look have failed to stand the test of time, it has emerged.

Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 3:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 3:42 pm
Quality: Barnsley Council is planning upmarket public areas in the town centre.

Several streets, which included Eldon Street, Regent Street South and Eastgate were all given the same treatment several years ago, following a Public Spaces Strategy set out by the council seven years ago, with the aim of upgrading the town centre.

The work on those streets was called the Urban Centre Infrastructure scheme but, several years after the work was completed, the council now concede the project “highlighted certain issues”, with councillors told “some of the materials have not performed as expected and present a burden from a maintenance perspective”.

Details of the problems have emerged as the council’s ruling Cabinet will be asked next week to approve an £8.1m scheme to revamp the major open spaces in the town centre, including Cheapside, Peel Square and a new square to be created where the temporary market currently stands.

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Councillors will be asked to agree the use of fresh materials, which were not available when the Public Spaces Strategy was set out in 2011, with materials chosen to suit each location.

The plan is to use high quality materials for the new public square and other key or gateway spaces, in addition to using different products to mark out where certain zones end and major routes through the town centre.

Improving the ‘public realm’ spaces around the new Glass Works shopping and leisure complex is regarded by council officials as vital to its success, by putting it in an attractive setting.

Preparatory work has already begun in Cheapside, with councillors on the Planning Regulatory Board also being asked to approve the plans when they meet next week.

The aim is to have to work completed as early as possible, though it has been warned there will be three years of disruption while contractors work through the different sites earmarked for improvement.

A report to the Cabinet states: “Issues raised, following the Urban Centre Infrastructure project, have been reviewed and considered as part of the design process and provide justification for moving away, in-part, from the specifications within the Public Spaces Strategy.

“Approving the amended materials palette will set a new precedent for any future town centre developments, managed through a revision of the Public Spaces Strategy, to provide an updated policy document for future guidance.”

Cabinet members could reject the new proposals, but they are warned that sticking with the materials used on the streets already refurbished would create areas “problematic to maintain”.

Even if the recommended materials are used, it is anticipated maintenance costs will only be absorbed by current highways budgets for five years, with councillors told: “Beyond this time, it is likely that there is risk of increased maintenance costs across the town centre and additional resources may be required on the basis that the construction of adopted highway has changed and may subsequently deteriorate differently to the current situation.

“Any implications regarding future financial resources will be reported to Cabinet in due course.”

The Cabinet meets on Wednesday July 25.