ALMOST £450,000 will be spent on new car parking, public art and highways improvements in five district high streets as part of plans to revamp out-of-town shopping areas.

Council officials have agreed to pump the cash into Athersley, Bolton-upon-Dearne, Darfield, Darton and Thurnscoe as part of its Principal Towns plan, a £5m investment project to improve out-of-town retail areas and help local high streets thrive.

The project was approved earlier this year and will run until March 2020, with the eventual aim of overhauling the appearance of ‘principal towns’ such as Cudworth, Goldthorpe, Hoyland, Penistone, Royston and Wombwell - with smaller shopping areas in Athersley, Bolton-upon-Dearne, Darfield, Darton, Dodworth, Grimethorpe, Lundwood, Mapplewell, Stairfoot and Thurnscoe also benefiting.

A report seen by cabinet members on Wednesday outlines the funding agreed for some of these smaller areas with the lion’s share going to Thurnscoe - £146,615 - and £116,098 to Bolton-upon-Dearne. Money totalling £56k has been allocated to Athersley, £36k to Darfield and £90k for Darton.

The Chronicle was told this cash will be used to implement projects approved in January which include new car parking, public art, public space, highways and accessibility improvements. It is hoped these improvements will have a positive impact on local high streets.

Cudworth, Dodworth, Penistone, Royston and Wombwell will also receive a share of £86k to pay for feasibility studies to be carried out by consultants to further develop their bids to makeover high streets.

The report shows the total money earmarked altogether at this stage is £530,713.

Council director Matt Gladstone said: “For our Principal Towns project to improve local high streets, we’re working closely with businesses and communities across the borough to develop suitable ideas.

“The project aims to create a thriving high street with strong and resilient communities, so it’s really important to look at ideas that are ambitious and achievable.

“To support this, we’ve allocated some funding in Cudworth, Darton, Dodworth, Penistone, Royston and Wombwell. The money will be used to look at feasibility and develop proposals with accurate costs, ensuring business cases are suitable for consideration for Principal Towns project funding.

“These exciting improvements will help encourage investment from the private sector and other funding streams to increase income generation across the borough.

“We’re currently procuring consultants to undertake this work, and expect to award to the successful supplier in May.”

The extra spending on district areas is designed to go alongside the major regeneration of Barnsley town centre. The idea behind the Principal Towns funding, according to the council, is to kick-start wider investment across local high streets to make sure the benefits of economic regeneration are felt across the borough.

Cabinet members have already agreed a shop front improvement scheme and to provide a minimum contribution of £4,000 per shop front, which could see up to 190 businesses taking part, under plans to increase footfall and encourage growth.

No time limits have been placed on the spending of the £5m total that’s been set aside to improve the locations, although in the initial shop front scheme, businesses will be asked to collectively provide £200,000 - or 20 per cent of each shop’s £4,000 allocation - towards the overall improvements.