Plans to install roller shutters which would leave an oak-framed market barn inaccessible outside trading hours have divided opinion among councillors, with some believing high security would only displace anti-social behaviour to other locations.
Penistone’s market barn was built in an unusual traditional style as part of a town centre redevelopment plan more than a decade ago, but has failed to live up to expectations providing a location for daily market activities.
Instead, it is mainly used for a successful Thursday market and a quieter session on Saturday, with some blaming the barn’s position as a focal point for youth gangs as part of the problem.
Traders can find the barn strewn with litter and subject to vandalism when they arrive, which prompted an investigation into whether the open access to the building could be blocked outside trading hours, something Barnsley Council’s markets team have now investigated.
They have found roller shutters would cost around £15,000, but the project would be more costly because they could not be fitted directly to the oak frame and would instead need their own supporting structures creating, adding to the cost and also creating the need for planning permission.
Penistone Area Council, which is made up of the area’s borough councillors who have a local budget to spend, have taken an interest in the future of the building, but have mixed views on the suggestion of total security.
That would bring the advantage of allowing traders’ stalls to be left in place, creating a more traditional market ‘feel’ than the current tables provide and would remove the bill for repairing vandal damage which currently costs around £4,000 a year.
Earlier suggestions of closing access to the barn have been thwarted by a suggestion there is public access through the building, but that has now been ruled out, opening the possibility of placing it out of bounds.
Cash for any potential project could come from area council funds or, potentially from a Barnsley Council spending pot of £5m, which will become available to the borough’s principle towns, or largest communities, which include Penistone.
Coun Andrew Millner told a meeting of the area council: “We must do this. There will be savings through a lack of vandalism.
“Securing the barn will allow us to develop it without the risk of vandalism. People are fed up with litter in the barn. The Barn needs a deep clean.”
Market staff have reported that stones from the pillars used to support the barn’s main structure have been removed to build ramps for use by youngsters on scooters, damage has been caused by people climbing onto the roof, debris have been thrown up and caught in netting installed to deter pigeons from roosting in the rafters and that drinkers leave behind large quantities of bottles and urinate in the building, leaving it in need of deep cleaning.
However, Coun Hannah Kitching believes closing off the barn would only move problems, rather than solving them.
“By closing the building we will not miraculously solve littering and vandalism. I think all it will do is shift the problem.
“Locking the space they hang out in is not going to make them go home and take up crochet instead. We need to think about engaging with them and asking why is this happening.
“People hang out in that space because it has a roof, kids are not stupid.
“It is a sticking plaster and it sounds like a very expensive sticking plaster,” she said.
Decisions on schemes which will qualify for help from the Principle Towns fund will be made later, with the money expected to be distributed over several years.