LONG-AWAITED plans to turn a disused village playing field into a focal point for the wider community are gathering pace as Barnsley’s ruling cabinet has agreed to hand the lease over to locals.

The 2,000 square metre site, on Houghton Road, Thurnscoe, is due to be leased by Thurnscoe Regeneration - a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) - which has drawn up plans to create a £250,000 village plaza featuring areas for skating, parkour and events, a community garden and cafe.

Consultation by community group Big Local Thurnscoe - which was involved in setting up the CIO and has put £150,000 towards the plaza through its ‘legacy’ budget, as the group comes to the end of its ten-year lifespan - started in late 2019.

Further funding is expected from a variety of sources, including Yorkshire Sport, ahead of construction starting later this year.

Aside from the plaza itself, Big Local development worker Alison Vint previously told the Chronicle the money would cover the employment of an outreach worker to be on-site to engage with any young people and dissuade antisocial behaviour.

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Barnsley Council currently owns the land after acquiring it from the British Coal Authority in 1990, with a covenant that it would be used for recreational purposes put in place.

Funding from Sport England in 2005 led to the creation of a multi-use games area and outdoor gym, but the space has since succumbed to some misuse.

The lease will be offered at a nominal rent to promote ‘external investment in the site, which will have significant socio-economic benefits to the local community’, said a report due to be discussed by cabinet members on Wednesday.

“The development of a village plaza and cafe will provide a central hub that will provide a base from which the CIO will delivery community and leisure based activities providing place where people of all ages can feel safe and build and develop a cohesive community reducing the risk of persons engaging in crime and engaging in anti-social behavior,” said the report.

“The proposed transfer will provide investment in the site and encourage the local community to use and look after the facilities it will provide for the community again minimising the risk of vandalism and other antisocial behavior.

“The granting of a lease to Thurnscoe Regeneration CIO will see continued use of and investment in Houghton Road Recreation Ground, keeping the asset at the heart of the community encouraging the local community to use the facilities.”

Alison said the group was pleased to finally get the plans to cabinet after a two-year wait, with the next stage after the granting of the lease to seek planning approval for the scheme.

“Since the pandemic we have developed the community part much more so that whatever might happen in the future, there will be a beautiful multi-purpose space in the centre of the village for everyone to enjoy,” she said.

“We hope that there will be a cafe facility included in this also that will be independently-run.

“The larger area has amphitheatre seating so that there is a ready-made events space in the village, and we are planning to have a new pedestrian entrance from Houghton Road and lots of great planting.

“We are really hopeful that building will commence once we have cabinet approval and planning permission and encourage any interested residents to contact us if you would like to get involved in this exciting new initiative.”