MANY thousands of words have been published in this newspaper about Barnsley Council’s so-called ‘local plan’.

In a nutshell, it’s the cast-iron blueprint for forthcoming development in the town and is made up of key infrastructure projects – it includes thousands of houses, business units, schools, roads and jobs.

It’s all about economic growth and boosting Barnsley for future generations, but with it comes no end of criticism from campaign groups as invariably it means land – much of it green – will be concreted over and built upon.

The largest swathe within the local plan is codenamed ‘MU1’ and it’s situated between Higham, Pogmoor and Barugh Green, sitting right alongside the M1. It’s highly sought after, too; given its location, it’s attractive to both residents who commute into work and businesses who see it as a gateway to the north.

MU1, since it was made available for development by the council, has drawn an initial – and then revised – application from Sterling Capitol and Strata, the firms which collectively make up the Barnsley West Consortium (BWC).

But there’s been a snag, and it’s down to its past use. Questions have been asked if it’s even safe to build 1,500-plus homes on it, not to mention a school, warehouses and link roads. Possessing a number of underground coal seams, it was home to opencast coal sites named Craven I, Craven II, Hunters Cottage and Farm House Lane – all of which were backfilled. Craven II, which sat in the centre of the 122-hectare site’s northern-most half, was excavated to depths of almost 45 metres from 1957 to 1963, for reference.

Site investigation work, which resulted in heavy duty core drilling rigs being spotted on MU1, has been carried out after the Coal Authority ‘expressed concern’ due to ‘insufficient investigations’ in the original application.

So it’s far from straightforward to build on – and indeed some detractors have called for it to be left alone completely due to its ex-mining past – but the man behind it told the Chronicle that he is completely committed to seeing it through.

That man is the former Sunderland Football Club owner, Sir Bob Murray, and if anyone’s well-placed to do so, it’s him. Indeed the Stadium of Light – Sunderland’s home ground – was built on a former pit so even the most passionate campaigner can’t dispute Sir Bob’s credentials.

It’s open to public consultation for another week however, so head over to the council’s website and submit your views.


WHEN you’ve clocked up a fair few years’ service in this news reporting game, you kind of become immune to the surprise effect some stories carry – that is until you hear about Florence Boycott and Ann Brown.

The twins were born on Stocks Lane on November 16, 1923, so yesterday they marked their 100th birthdays. They’ve lived through three monarchs, World War Two and a total of 20 different Prime Ministers – and even England’s World Cup win in 1966.

It’s remarkable whenever someone becomes a centenarian – less than one per cent of the British public live to see it – but when it’s twins achieving the feat, it’s an even more wonderful occasion.

According to the Guinness World Records, the chance of identical twins both reaching and surpassing the age of 100 is about one in 700 million.

For context, that means a person is 15 times more likely to win the jackpot in the National Lottery. So, from everyone at the Chronicle, happy birthday to both Florence and Ann.


FARMS in outlying areas of Barnsley are being viewed as sitting ducks for criminals and high-value thefts are on the rise.

Expensive items such as quads, tractors, horse boxes and agricultural machinery have all been stolen from local farms.

We’re not talking about petty thieves stealing a tenner’s worth of toiletries from a supermarket, here; we’re talking about crime outfits who are meticulous in their planning, they’re organised and they’re there for a reason.

A week of action took place last month which saw the team work with cross-border colleagues, neighbourhood bobbies and road policing units and it absolutely needs to continue.