Barnsley’s multi-storey car park is to be closed for demolition in July as part of the transformation of the town centre traders have been told, though some are concerned the timing of the change could undermine the sensitive period when market stalls begin switching to their new location.
When the car park goes, more space for traders in the basement of the building will also be lost along with a handful of ground level spaces nearby, meaning almost 600 spaces will go.
Survey work done for Barnsley Council suggests that although it adds up to 39 per cent of town centre parking spaces being lost until a replacement car park is ready in 2020, the only day it will cause problems is Saturdays.
If nothing was done, that could cost the town centre economy more than £1.5m a year, the authority has been told, so work is being done to open up new areas for Saturday parking, as well as extending the no charge arrangement to on-street parking for the first time.
However, market traders told of the timescale for the closure of the multi-storey – which has 495 spaces for shoppers – are worried about the adverse impact it will have on visitor numbers as stallholders work to establish their businesses in a new location, at a time when their costs will also rise sharply because of increased rent costs.
It was known the multi-storey was to be demolished, but the timescale has only just been confirmed to traders, who had hoped it would remain open to give the opportunity for a ‘settling in’ period when businesses move to stalls in the new Glass Works building.
Meat and fish traders will be the first to go, in September, followed by others later in the Autumn, on current schedules.
Kieron Knight, a spokesman for stallholders, said: “A lot of traders thought it wouldn’t happen until the end of the year, letting them move into the Glass Works and then have a couple of months there.
“This is really bad news, I think it could kill the market.”
Barnsley Council itself has recognised that without action to make more parking spaces available on Saturdays, there would a risk of the town centre effectively deterring hundreds of shoppers from visiting because of a lack of “access to desirable parking spaces” members of the council’s ruling cabinet have been told.
“The impact of the loss is amplified as the 598 spaces fall within 400m of the shopping district and further amplified as the spaces form part of the free weekend parking off to support the town centre economy,” with the market regarded as being at “great risk” as a result.
The plan to counter the loss of the spaces is to open up more, including parking bays leased by the council in Gateway Plaza for its own weekday use, though that is in Shambles Street at the opposite end of the town centre to the Glass Works.
Other spaces are expected to become available but the biggest change will be to introduce long and short stay zones for free Saturday parking, with the short stay spaces closest to the town so they are available for shoppers rather than being taken up early by staff.
Research has shown the multi-storey is currently 34 per cent full by 8.30am on Saturdays, which is assumed to be workers arriving early.
That will mean splitting the large Court House car park into long and short stay sections.
Officials also looked at alternatives including the installation of ‘decking’ to allow parking on a temporary basis – at undisclosed locations – but that was ruled out on cost grounds as it could have meant spending up to £6,000 for each bay created.
A park and ride scheme was also rejected on cost grounds and the prospect of charging for parking on Saturdays, which would have been likely to choke off demand for spaces, was also ruled out.
No comment was available from Barnsley Council.
Stallholders in Cheapside have been told they must move to a new location so work on ‘public realm’ improvements outside the Glass Works building can begin.
Two locations have been suggested, in Kendray Street and May Day Green, but both are regarded as having problems.
Traders’ spokesman Keiron Knight said ten businesses were affected and Kendray Street was seen as an inferior location which could affect custom, with May Day Green unlikely to be able to accommodate all the stalls, he said.
Barnsley Council is planning extensive work on public areas around the town centre to compliment other changes as the transformation of the town centre continues.
A planning application for those changes was submitted in early March, though a decision has yet to be made on whether it should be approved.