AMBITIOUS multi-million pound plans to renovate Barnsley’s Civic so it remains a prominent feature of the new-look town centre have today been released.

Central to the project will be reopening the arts venue’s Eldon Street entrance, the first phase of the redevelopment which will see the building ‘given its front door back’, said Civic chief executive Helen Ball.

It’s hoped the building’s Victorian frontage will become a feature of the street, which sits centrally amidst wider town centre developments such as the new Market Gate footbridge, County Way Digital Campus and the Glass Works.

To this end, it will be given a £1.6m facelift through Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones fund.

Confirmation of that funding, which Barnsley secured for Eldon Street after an application focusing on the town’s ‘heritage-led’ development, is expected next month.

It will see the total cost of the Civic’s redevelopment, originally planned to be around £5m, sit at £7.2m ready for construction to start in 2022 - with ‘significant investment’ needed through grants and fund-raising by the charitable trust that runs the building.

“We want people to take the building to their hearts again,” said Helen.

“It’s so important to Barnsley, not just because of the arts but because of its reputation and value to our town, and how long it’s been here.

“There are still people who don’t know we’re here, don’t know what goes on or even how to physically get into the building.”

The building, which reopened in 2009, is currently inaccessible to the public from its Eldon Street side which is mainly used to house council workers.

A cafe, bar and box office will be created as this becomes the new main entrance, with links to the Hanson Street entrance re-established.

Sited above the Eldon Street entrance in plans drawn by architects HLM are private apartments - with a two-bedroom flat on the first floor, three one-bedroom flats, including a studio, on the second and three more one-bedroom flats on the third.

The side that faces Mandela Gardens will have the existing balcony removed, allowing the upper floors to be visible - and removing the threat of anti-social behaviour by discouraging groups of people that tend to congregate in the areas underneath the balcony.

Inside a new 150-seat studio theatre will be installed, allowing the existing assembly room to be used for larger events.

Helen said another ‘pebble in her shoe’ was the three lower floors - totalling 22,000 square feet of space - that are currently undeveloped.

Originally intended as retail space, these have since been used as storage - but the extra floors will be transformed into smaller events spaces and teaching rooms.

Helen said: “Our redevelopment plan is designed to create an arts centre that is accessible for all - a central events venue that everyone can enjoy.

“People will be able to come and see shows, enjoy exhibitions, attend dance classes and much more.

“I really want people to choose the Civic first for their special celebrations, to spend time in our bar as part of their night out and of course to enjoy our shows and exhibitions. I want local people to be proud of the Civic and what it brings to the town.”

Chair of trustees Steve Wragg added: “We are at a really exciting position at The Civic, ready to move forward with our expansion to complement the work on the new town centre.

“We look forward to using the whole building to deliver a programme of work that the people of Barnsley will connect with and enjoy our growth with us.”