AN eyesore building that’s been left derelict for the best part of a decade could become offices and leisure facilities in the next phase of regeneration in one of Barnsley’s so-called principal towns, the Chronicle understands.
The Burton building on the corner of High Street and George Street, Wombwell, was last occupied by Superdrug - but one small part of the lower floor facing High Street has been taken up by a succession of businesses in recent years.
Formerly Wombwell Congregational Church until that building was demolished in 1938, the first stone for the new building laid by Stanley Howard Burton - the son of Burton menswear chain founder Sir Montague Burton - that year.
Occupying the building has been high on the agenda for local councillors since 2012, amid concern from residents that the crumbling art deco building would succumb to vandalism and antisocial behaviour.
But plans have never got past the idea stage, with minutes from a 2019 Wombwell Ward Alliance meeting noting the owner - understood to be London-based - ‘still doesn’t want to sell’ with suggestions that a compulsory purchase order, to see the council forcibly take control, was the only course of action.
But with Wombwell’s receipt of £359,704 through the first phase of Barnsley Council’s Principal Towns funding, renovating the Burton building is expected to be a significant part of phase two.
Wombwell Coun James Higginbottom said plans will soon be going out to consultation, but restoring the building - the preferred option of 71 per cent of residents, according to surveys as part of phase one - is the ultimate aim.
It could, suggested Coun Higginbottom, be used as business space - similar to the town centre’s Digital Media Centre - with interest in turning the upper floor into a leisure or recreation space.
“The Burton building is a magnificent piece of architecture and a wonderful part of the fabric of Wombwell High Street,” he added.
“Couns Robert Frost, Brenda Eastwood and I would very much like to see it restored to its former glory and put to good use.
“Through Barnsley Council’s Principal Towns fund, we are working on a range of exciting plans - both in terms of the restoration of the Burton building and the wider regeneration of Wombwell town centre.”
Phase one of the Principal Towns project has seen public realm improvements - to ‘declutter’ the area of street furniture - and new CCTV sanctioned for High Street, with £116,094 and £26,396 budgeted respectively.
A toilet block sold for £67,000 by the council in 2014 - with a view to once being used as a takeaway - has been purchased for £100,000 and work is underway to demolish it, the ‘overwhelming result’ of consultation, according to a council report.
The town has also benefitted from £50,000 for new market stalls and £30,000 in start-up grants to hopefully entice new firms into vacant premises, as well as a number of businesses applying for Barnsley Council’s shop front scheme - which sees the authority put in up to £4,000 if the applicant can contribute 20 per cent of costs.
Phase two investment will see Wombwell - alongside other principal towns Cudworth, Royston, Hoyland and Penistone - selected in a ‘feasibility fund’ which is planned to ‘enable local areas to secure funding to facilitate future delivery’.
It’s expected business cases will be developed in November, ahead of implementation of ‘place-shaping projects’ in March next year.