OCCUPANCY levels in Barnsley town centre are ‘performing well’ - but council bosses say they are ‘very aware’ that more needs to be done to let empty units.

It was revealed last month that New Look would be the latest high street fashion brand to pledge its future to the town centre’s multi-million pound regeneration as it moved just 150 metres down the road leaving its Cheapside unit vacant.

The fashion retailer has been open on Cheapside for a number of years but bosses will open the new store in the Glass Works, situated next to Game and Next, on July 21.

The retailer’s current unit will close a day before, leaving the unit empty, as it becomes another casualty in the town centre of a business moving its premises into the Glass Works.

It now means that both the New Look building, and the site next to it - formerly Sports Direct which also moved to the Glass Works - will be empty.

However the Chronicle understands that health and beauty shop Superdrug, situated next to New Look on Cheapside, will remain there.

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.

Coun Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, praised the town’s occupancy rate - and told the Chronicle that the Glass Works has not had a negative impact in that respect despite the empty units on Cheapside.

“Occupancy levels are performing well across the town centre at 84 per cent,” he said.

“The national occupancy rate is currently at 89 per cent - so here in Barnsley we are only slightly below the national occupancy figure, which is positive considering the recent challenges.

“We know there is more to be done and continue to work with our partners, businesses and property owners to explore various opportunities that will aim to further reduce the vacancy rate in the town centre.

“We are not resting on our laurels.

“Since the opening of the Glass Works in September 2021, which will be 90 per cent let when fully open, the overall town centre occupancy rate has remained at 84 per cent, which demonstrates that it has not had a negative impact on the rest of the town centre.

“We are very aware that there is more work to do across the wider town centre which is why we continuously monitor our occupancy levels.

“The Seam the new development on County Way will also be a real asset to the town centre’s economy attracting people and new businesses from which the wider town centre will benefit.”

Sir Steve added that they are looking to ensure the former BHS site will have new owners and be let - and admits they’re looking at the ‘bigger picture’.

“The needs of town centres and high streets are changing which is why our town centre action plan and strategic vision for the town centre is dynamic, adaptive and flexible and considers the repurposing of retail space, and the growth of our independent businesses, and we will be looking to ensure that the former BHS building has appropriate future uses,” he said.

“Barnsley is known as a great place to invest, where businesses and organisations provide diverse and secure employment opportunities, contributing to an economy that benefits everyone we are continuously working with businesses, offering advice and new initiatives, to make sure they are supported.

“We are looking at the bigger picture making sure we are working towards the right infrastructure, good transport links, strong digital connectivity abilities and an attractive offer, so that we have a thriving and sustainable town centre.”