AN ambitious project to create an ‘urban village’ in the town centre is set to rapidly pick up pace due to tight deadlines which require cash to be spent in just two years, the Chronicle can reveal.

According to documents released this week, the next stages of the scheme, on County Way, include energy-efficient housing, public realm improvements and a 376-space multi-storey car park following previous periods of public consultation.

Known as The Seam, it is already home to two digital media centres - DMC01 and DMC02 - and Barnsley College’s SciTech building, but plans will transform the look of the current 940-space car park which will be built on.

Discussions with potential developers of apartments and townhouses are already underway, according to a report compiled by Barnsley Council’s head of economic development, Paul Clifford, which will be discussed by ruling cabinet members on Wednesday.

“Located at the heart of the town centre, immediately adjacent to the transport interchange, the site is bounded by Regent Street to the south, Eastgate to the west, Old Mill Lane to the north and a combination of the railway line and Eldon Street North to the east,” it said.

“The site forms an important physical link between the town centre and Barnsley College, offering opportunities to connect students and education facilities with the wider town.

“Its current use as a surface-level car park is a hugely inefficient use of a prime town centre location.

“The site topography, massing and planned multi-storey car park lends itself to apartments, and, subject to market conditions and viability, the council is keen to bring forward a mixture of townhouses and apartments that substantially change the market offer in the town centre.

“The design development to date has been accelerated to ensure we can meet the timelines necessary for spending of all the government’s Future High Street Fund allocation by March 2024.

“There is a clear focus on pedestrian priority, with less traffic being encouraged through the site, traffic-free areas within the public realm, in line with environmental aspirations.

“This funding deadline has been one of the principal drivers of the programme and informs the sequencing of the next steps and key activities to be completed.”

A loss of parking spaces as a result has been defended by the council, as the current occupancy rate is approximately 500 vehicles a day.

Car parks elsewhere will be able to cope with the knock-on impact of the development if the new multi-storey is full, the report said.

Coun Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture, said the scheme will create a ‘vibrant neighbourhood where people can live, work and learn’.

“This investment will accelerate the recovery of our town centre and help us all adapt to the changes the pandemic has brought,” he added.

“It’s a hotbed of creative and digital business talent - we want to nurture that, expand it, and provide high-quality jobs and businesses for our young people, as well as housing and space for them to enjoy in their leisure time.

“This will ensure more of the next generation choose to build lives for themselves here in their home town, as well as attracting new investment, jobs and businesses to relocate to Barnsley.”