AMBITIOUS plans to transform an area of wasteland on the edge of the town centre into a state-of-the-art youth zone to help get kids off the streets will cost more than £7m, it has been revealed.
The former electricity depot, which lies between Schwabisch Gmund Way, Harborough Hill Road and Mottram Street, has been derelict for years and although various plans have been outlined in the past - including for a supermarket - none have come to fruition.
But the site, adjacent to Buzz Bingo, has been identified as Barnsley Council’s next major project after the completion of its flagship Glass Works scheme in 2021.
Documents revealed this week showed the £7.4m project has been put back six months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but local authority bosses pledged their support to the scheme and the site is now in the council’s ownership.
The site, earmarked as the ‘Eastern Gateway’ in the council’s regeneration documents, could also include a multi-storey car park and housing due to it being identified as an attractive location thanks to its close proximity to Barnsley Interchange and the town centre.
OnSide, a firm behind a series of successful youth zones across the country, has been identified as the preferred provider of the proposed scheme.
Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesman for place, said: “The youth zone is very much still part of our plans and is approved in principle - it would be a great addition to Barnsley and become a real community hub for our young people.
“We’ve made a big step by acquiring the land the youth zone would be built on, and we’re in active discussions with OnSide about the project.
“We’re pausing the project for six months while we assess the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the council, which is the sensible thing to do.
“The youth zone would be a unique offer that can’t be replicated for a smaller cost.
“This pause will allow us to evaluate the finances and also allow us more time to engage with key stakeholders and assess what we need to do to make the project successful.”
Vandalism at play areas and multi-use games areas in parks across Barnsley cost the council more than £100,000 to rectify in the last five years and the plan to create the hub - which will be staffed by OnSide - has been hailed as a positive step by council leader Sir Steve Houghton.
“We hear a lot about youngsters engaging in antisocial behaviour and people say there’s nothing for them to do to keep them occupied, so this really could be the answer to that,” he added.
“There’s also the potential to create a multi-storey car park on the remainder of the land, as well as keeping some back for residential use.”
Although antisocial behaviour figures were slashed by 21 per cent in the town centre last year, police meetings remain inundated with requests from councillors and the public for new provision to be created to keep youngsters off the streets.
The youth zone would offer a wide range of sporting, artistic, cultural, physical and recreational activities for young people,” according to a cabinet report.
It added: “Young people under the age of 20 make up 23.1 per cent of the population in Barnsley - 22.8 per cent of local children are known to be living in poverty.( “The unique selling point of the proposed model is a four-way partnership between the private-sector led board, the local authority, the young people of Barnsley and the voluntary sector.
“The facility will not be open to adults and is built in partnership with young people to generate a sense of ownership and pride. The provision is youth-led, responding to the needs of its members and driven by a commitment to help all children and young people. ( “In March, OnSide issued revised capital estimates for the ‘construction and fit out’ of the facility. The revised estimates increased capital costs from the original £6m estimate to £7.4m.
“OnSide indicated they would expect the council to provide £3.45m of the £7.4m.
“Barnsley’s youth zone is an opportunity for the council to invest in a state-of-the-art youth facility and iconic ‘hub’ that will demonstrate a commitment to the health, wellbeing and development of all the existing and future generations of young people in the borough, while also complementing the wider regeneration of the town centre.”