PLANS to widen one of the main routes into the town centre took a major step forward this week after planning bosses gave their approval.

The application - submitted on behalf of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive - sought to widen Old Mill Lane and increase its current three lanes to five.

This will include a new bus lane, cycle paths, the relocation of a bus shelter, the removal of Asda’s recycling centre and Kaye Pepper’s memorial, who died on July 13, 1996.

The proposals, which were revealed in January 2022, suggest the widening of the highway to include four lanes and a separate bus lane - five in total.

Once the work begins, the Chronicle understands that three lanes will be cut to two for ten weeks - and then after 17 weeks there will be three lanes open once again.

The initial plans were approved by the council’s planning board at a meeting in October last year, but the plans have now officially been rubber-stamped and work is set to pick up pace.

A planning report said: “The application site forms part of the A61 corridor, which is a strategic route linking Barnsley to Wakefield and the M1 motorway.

“The route currently suffers from congestion, significant delay and journey time variation for buses and general traffic.

“Arup - an engineering firm - undertook a feasibility study in 2017 to assess the impacts of a range of potential interventions along the A61 corridor in Barnsley.

“The study found that the Old Mill Lane bridge is a bottleneck for southbound traffic (towards the town centre), and that the benefits of other junction improvement schemes along the corridor would only be realised once the bridge widening scheme is in place.

“The bridge widening is therefore considered to be a crucial starting point to deliver other potential interventions in the future.”

A number of residents submitted their objections to the plans - but these have been dismissed by the planning board.

The main areas of concern are a loss of trees, detrimental impact to wildlife, the knock-on effect to the surrounding road network and the signalised junction south of the side needing modifying.

“Personal injury accident data was reviewed for the five-year period 2016/2020 covering a study area of the proposed scheme and 150-metre approaches to and from the A61 and A635,” the report added.

“A total of 26 collisions occurred within the study are during this period, of which eight were ‘serious’ and 18 ‘slight’.

“The review concluded there are not any road safety concerns on the highway network that are likely to be exacerbated by the proposal.

“The proposed widening of the existing bridge from three lanes to five would reduce congestion and delay and improve journey time reliability.

“The proposal would encroach slightly into the green belt.

“However, the assessment has determined the proposal is an appropriate form of development that does not require very special circumstances.”