Bar customers can smoke openly in town centre despite council pledge to make the habit invisible

Council chiefs who banned market traders from selling cigarette papers in a prestigious new town centre development will be unable to stop customers at restaurant in the same regeneration scheme from smoking at tables outside, it has emerged.

By Paul Whitehouse
Tuesday, 14 May, 2019, 12:41
Barnsley's new Lightbox library and Lounges bar building

Barnsley Council attracted controversy when it stopped traders who sold smoking paraphernalia – but not cigarettes – from continuing with their businesses in the new Glass Works market, as part of the council’s pledge to ‘make smoking invisible’ in an attempt to prevent the next generation of children from taking up the habit. But they have created a bar and restaurant alongside the new Lightbox library building, directly opposite the Glass Works, which is to be hired out on a 20 year lease and the authority will have no power to prevent customers using tables on an outside seating area from smoking. The council is to consult the public over whether the area immediately outside, in May Day Green, should be part of a wider voluntary smoking ban, similar to one introduced successfully outside the town hall. Even if that is put in place, the council will be powerless to stop customers smoking while sat at tables if they decide to, because they rely on public goodwill rather than enforcement to make the smoking bans work. Market trader Keiron Knight, who had to change his business to continue trading in the market, said: “This is just hypocrisy from the council, it is unbelievable. “If they really don’t want people to be seen smoking, couldn’t they have written a caveat into the lease to say that any outdoor seating would be for non-smokers only? “They have been happy to deny other people their business over their policy on smoking but this looks like different rules for different people. “I will be taking legal advice to see whether this affects the way I was treated,” he said. Coun Jim Andrews, the authority’s Cabinet spokesman for Public Health , said: “We’re committed to our pledge of becoming a smoke-free town as part of the Breathe 2025 campaign.

“We’ve made some tremendous steps towards that goal so far, including the introduction of voluntary smoke-free zones around schools and play areas. We were also the first northern town to have an outdoor public space smoke-free zone in its town centre.

A voluntary smoking ban outside Barnsley Town Hall has proved successful

“Our fantastic Library @ the Lightbox will be smoke-free, including the rooftop terrace. Our Market Kitchen will also be smoke-free, including the balcony.

“The area outside Lounges – the new restaurant opening adjacent to the Lightbox - will be subject to future public consultation over voluntary smoking bans in the town centre.

“We will continue to introduce new initiatives that help us work towards our smoke-free goal.

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A council spokesman confirmed the outdoor eating/drinking area for the Lounges will be part of any consultation around introducing a smoke-free area, because it is part of the public highway.

The area will be close to a new public square, which will be created as part of the centrepiece to the town centre and a short distance away from a new multiscreen cinema complex which has yet to be built.

Barnsley historically has a higher than average number of smokers and the council has been highly successful with its initiatives to reduce that percentage, with numbers falling noticeably in recent years.

Part of its pioneering work has been to create voluntary smoking bans in play areas at its public parks, followed by the square with fountains outside the town hall and most recently areas around primary school gates.

It is expected an area in the centre of Hoyland will also be designated smoke free at some point in the future, with the ultimate aim of putting smoking out of the sight of an emerging generation so they never take up the habit, rather than needing specialist services to try to help addicts kick the habit.

Mr Knight was one of two market traders affected by the council’s decision to stop the sale of smoking related goods in the new market. While he had changed to other products, the other trader had moved to a shop elsewhere in town, paying rent to a private landlord instead of the council.