COUNCIL bosses have defended their ‘prudent’ approach to financing the town centre’s regeneration - after a document obtained by the Chronicle revealed almost £140m has been borrowed for the scheme.
A Freedom of Information request shows £139.3m was borrowed for the £210m venture which has attracted big-name favourites including TK Maxx, River Island, Nando’s, TGI Fridays, The Botanist, Cineworld and Superbowl UK to the new-look leisure hub.
Additional cost pressures have seen the overall capital cost of the regeneration increase to £210.6m - double its original estimation when first revealed in 2017.
More than half of the 39 units in the Glass Works site have been let to retailers and 40.9 per cent of the 269,000 square feet in the site is now open, while a third is in the fit-out stages and around 17 per cent has had terms for let agreed.
However, given financial constraints and the knock-on impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the council’s moved to defend its spending just weeks after revealing they are in the process of identifying a minimum of £2m in efficiencies and savings to counteract a projected deficit of £1.8m for the next financial year.
A statement said: “The current approved borrowing for the Glass Works town centre development totals £139.3m.
“In accordance with statute, this borrowing is included in the council’s overall capital financing requirement within the council’s treasury management strategy and medium-term financial strategy.
“A copy of the current medium-term financial strategy and treasury management strategy can be found in the annual budget setting pack on the council’s internet site.
“All borrowing undertaken is prudent, affordable and sustainable in accordance with the council’s strategies.
“As a key strategic investment for the council there is a need to ensure the successful delivery of the Glass Works.
“There are clear financial and reputational implications should the project not be delivered on time, to budget and fail to have the intended economic and social outcomes.
“A total of £210,000 has been spent on the Covid memorial and a further £94,200 has been spent on plinths, although some of these costs were funded via contributions from partners.
“Other statues and public art in the town centre - for example the Kes statue - has come at no cost to the council.
“It is important to note that, when all of the leases currently sitting with solicitors are completed, the scheme will be 90 per cent let.
“This significantly bucks the trend for schemes of this nature across the country, many of which have been badly hit by the impacts of the pandemic and is a resounding tribute to the work of the teams and our leasing agent in ensuring the scheme brings a fresh retail, leisure and hospitality offer to Barnsley.
“There are currently 11 units which are vacant - targets and types of businesses have been identified for these units to ensure a dynamic tenant mix, and a refreshed marketing plan is in place to market these units, using the success of the scheme so far to promote the remaining units to let.
“Advance negotiations are currently being held with a further seven tenants.”