Three screen Penistone expected to attract film enthusiasts as council pumps cash into revamping the town
An innovative regeneration project could see the market town of Penistone get three cinema screens as part of a substantial investment package designed to draw in more trade and secure the economic future of the area.
Under plans to go before Barnsley Council’s ruling Cabinet, a major investment would see the town’s Paramount cinema gain a second screen expected to be used for specialist interest films and events along with an outdoor auditorium which would be use as a ‘pop up’ cinema as well as a venue for other entertainment.
The transformation would be part of a package which would also see the town’s oak-framed market barn updated with better stalls and weather-proofing which would allow more use to be made of the building, cycle storage and facilities to help the district capitalise on the tourism potential resulting from successful Tour de Yorkshire events in the area, better signs and route markings to help visitors arriving at the railway station navigate their way around town and improvements to the High Street.
Costs for the scheme, if it is approved, have yet to be finalised but it is anticipated Barnsley Council will pump in substantially more than the £500,000 previously discussed for the project.
That money could also attract match-funding from other agencies, which could see the scope of the work proposed by the council expand further.
Several years ago, Barnsley Council announced it would spend £5m on ‘principal towns’ and smaller urban centres to help avoid them being eclipsed by the major regeneration taking place in the town centre.
Some smaller projects have now been approved but the Penistone scheme is the first of the major projects and it is anticipated work could start in the Spring of 2020.
The Paramount cinema and town hall are in adjacent buildings built just over 100 years ago and it is acknowledged there is potential to upgrade what Coun Robert Barnard described as a “tired” building.
Under the plans the council chamber, used by Penistone Town Council, would stay intact but space would be made available in the building for a new bar and second screen to complement the exist facilities at the Paramount cinema, alongside, which is operated through the town council.
The internal layout of the building means access is awkward because it is built on sloping land, but that would be resolved by the installation of platform lifts inside, allowing easy access between different levels.
New toilet facilities would also be installed, with the second screen created in a flexible area which could be used for other purposes when not needed for cinema purposes.
Coun Barnard said: “The Paramount and town hall building is looking very tired, it needs work to bring it up to date, while retaining its character.
“Money from the Principal Towns fund will allow for match funding, so there will be additional funding sought so maybe other work will also be carried out.”
A further boost could come from extending free wi-fi, which currently only covers the market barn, which could make the area more attractive to visitors and provide a facility which would help independent traders.
Coun Dave Griffin said: “The idea is to encourage people to use the High Street more. It should add to the appeal of Penistone.”
Improving the public realm with seating and upgraded paved areas is also an ambition, an idea thwarted in the past by the fact that some paved areas are owned jointly by the local authority and shop owners, with business tenants unwilling to invest in projects with no direct benefit to them.
That scheme could also feature public art, something which could be rotated and could provide an opportunity for the area’s schools to contribute.
Coun Griffin said: “This is a project which has been talked about for a number of years. Councillors no longer on the council have been instrumental in some of the ideas.”
Students from Sheffield University were also involved in a project several years ago to identify areas where the town could be improved and areas their research identified, including changes to the town hall and ‘way finding’ signs to help strangers navigate the town, have been adopted in the final plan.