A MULTI-MILLION pound regeneration scheme which began to boost the appearance of out-of-town centres across Barnsley has been halted due to spiralling costs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Principal Towns project’s shop front programme, which has benefited areas including Cudworth, Goldthorpe and Mapplewell, has received an influx of applications from businesses throughout the lockdown period.

According to a report, a total of 141 shop fronts have been improved at a cost of more than £660,000 but the initial £860,000 earmarked for frontages from the overall £5m pot will be exceeded.

Barnsley Council has taken the decision to temporarily suspend the scheme due to a threat of the shop fronts scheme being overbudget.

Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesman, said: “The shop fronts refurbishment scheme, part of our Principal Towns initiative to support our local high streets, has been a massive success.

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“We recognise that our Principal Towns and local centres play a significant role in the future of Barnsley and are just as important to people who live locally. That’s why we’ve put forward a £5m programme to help them thrive.

“It has supported both our local retailers themselves and the local contractors who have undertaken the majority of the work.

“The original budget allocated for shop fronts was £860,000 and £665,308 has been paid out for works at 141 premises so far.

“We already have another 58 applications in the works and if all these are completed it will take the scheme over budget, so we have suspended applications for now.

“We have been receiving a lot of requests since the start of the pandemic as businesses look to use the downtime created by lockdown to make improvements ready for reopening.

“A focus on developing the local economy will allow the community to continue to thrive with great pride in what the local area has to offer.

“Building on the vibrancy in the region will increase footfall, reduce antisocial behaviour and enable people to shop local while attracting jobs and investment

“We know there is still demand so we are currently exploring options to potentially extend the scheme but this is at an early stage.”

No time limits have been placed on the spending of the £5m total that’s been set aside to improve the locations - brought about as a result of the town centre’s ongoing regeneration - although in the initial shop front scheme, businesses were asked to collectively provide £200,000 - or 20 per cent of each shop’s £4,000 allocation - towards the overall improvements.

Coun Jenny Platts added: “Barnsley town centre is in the middle of a huge programme of transformation which has already seen a significant amount of investment.

“The Principal Towns funding is being used to kick-start wider investment across local high streets to make sure the benefits of economic regeneration are felt right across the borough.

“The shop front scheme is an exciting and imaginative approach which will help deliver the improvements that residents want to see.

“We’re committed to making sure the Principal Towns programme works directly with communities to deliver the best possible outcomes.

“The programme will encourage investment which will continue to reap the benefits for the people and businesses in district towns for years to come.”