THE former site of Elsecar Ironworks is set to be transformed after long-awaited £25m plans for a new heritage railway and rail college broke cover.

The leader of Barnsley Council, Sir Steve Houghton, said he wants to make the site an area which will ‘thrive long into the future’.

Included in the ancient monument’s plans, which have taken a number of years to be drawn up, include a new heritage railway, a rail college, outdoor events, and more.

The railway destination will include a reconstructed 1849 Fitzwilliam locomotive powered by sustainable fuels, whilst the college will train almost 500 students every year.

Funding options are currently being explored by the council, with the development expected to cost around £25m.

It may be progressed in stages as funding becomes available.

The new development would transform the impact Elsecar can have for Barnsley and South Yorkshire communities and mean the village further becoming a national visitor destination.

It focuses on creating jobs, skills and quality life-changing experiences for South Yorkshire communities. It is closely aligned to Barnsley’s 2030 vision as ‘a place of possibilities’.

Sir Steve said: “We’re determined to transform this remarkable historic site, previously the home of Elsecar Heritage Railway, into something which is unique, sustainable, and will thrive long into the future.

“This will include a new heritage railway destination, a rail college, advanced engineering workshops, outdoor performance and events area, public spaces, a café-restaurant and more.

“The redevelopment of the Ironworks site and heritage railway will not happen straight away. We need to secure funding and it will take time to deliver, but this vision is the starting point for something very special for Elsecar.”

Elsecar is now recognised to have been a model village carefully created for the Earls Fitzwilliam of Wentworth Woodhouse and an international centre of industry known for its coalmining and ironmaking.

It has remarkable surviving heritage, including extensive industrial and village architecture, archaeological sites, and is home to the world’s oldest steam engine still in situ, constructed at Elsecar New Colliery in 1795.

The village’s last colliery closed in 1983 and in the 1990s, Elsecar Heritage Centre was created centred on its Victorian workshops. Over 600,000 are estimated to visit each year, including the village’s park, reservoir, canal and Trans Pennine Trail.

he site sits on the east side of the successful Elsecar Heritage Centre and its major indoor events space, which is being refurbished over the next year thanks to funding already secured from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, through the Cultural Development Fund administered by Arts Council England.

This development, which costs around £3.93m, will create new studios in derelict historic places, museum galleries and outdoor event spaces.

The investment includes new facilities in Barnsley’s Principal Towns, creating new cultural hubs and a creative network, and a cultural programme that promises to create a’ real buzz, excitement and ambition, for the whole borough, its residents and visitors’.

Darren Henley, chief executive officer at Arts Council England, added: “Our artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries are experts in making villages, towns and cities better places to live, work, visit or play.

“This investment means they’ll be able to help more people across England to lead happier, more creative lives.”

A series of consultation events, activities and special tours are planned for the new year when the public, beginning with local residents, can share their thoughts about the new vision and how it should be taken forward.