A LOCAL councillor has described plans to turn Penistone Town Hall into a community space the ‘slowest project in the universe’ after plans were finally approved earlier this month.

An application had been lodged with Barnsley Council’s planning department to create a cinema screen room, bar, cafe and kitchen, and community spaces at Penistone Town Hall on Shrewsbury Road.

It’s hoped the works will ‘help Penistone become the vibrant market town it should be’.

The application made by the council’s economic regeneration department proposes a new accessible entrance and internal changes to the historic building, which opened in 1914 and lies within a conservation area.

Used as an army recruitment centre during the First World War, for dances and fundraisers during the Second World War, and then of limited use since, it is deemed ‘of local interest’ but not listed.

Now plans are approved, it’s hoped the chamber will become a ‘multi-functional’ area, while there will also be a dedicated exhibitions space, with internal lifts providing improved access.

Coun Hannah Kitching, who represents Penistone West and is the leader of Barnsley’s Liberal Democrats, said the funding was in place before even she was elected.

“It is just the slowest project in the universe,” she told the Chronicle.

“It’s an underused building that brings nothing to the community.

“The refurbishment is part of wider plans - but they’ve just not happened fast enough.

“We’ve just got to wait and see it happens.”

Coun Kitching added that there’s already been instances where Barnsley Council reportedly rush through plans - but she feels there has been no urgency with this application.

“The irritating thing is that there’s been a few instances of the council rushing stuff through,” she added.

“Why is this taking so long?

“Where is the urgency?

“It’s all good and well talking but the people weren’t included in the plans.

“They need to see tangible benefits.”

A planning statement claims the building has been plagued with threats of closure throughout its use - with the main aim being to make the space a community hub for residents to use.

“As an asset of considerable interest to the community the under usage of the building was raised in our initial consultation regarding Principal Towns and a desire raised to see the building used as a flexible, functioning community asset,” added the statement.

“However, the building would not be a feasible asset as currently there are a number of issues with the state of the building and issues with accessibility, the aim of this project is to undertake necessary repairs and alter the building to create a flexible useable community space.

“Penistone Paramount is attached to the town hall building and is successfully leased by the town council which covers all repairs and maintenance of the building.

“It is proposed that once works are complete the building will be transferred or leased to the town council removing all future cost liabilities from Barnsley Council.

“It is envisaged that in addition to additional performances from the Paramount a variety of cultural events and exhibitions will be delivered from the building.”

This scheme is deemed to be the main project for Penistone in the next phase of Barnsley’s Principal Towns scheme.