Barnsley Market reopens

Historic market relaunches at centre of Barnsley regeneration

Barnsley Markets has opened the doors of its new market hall that forms part of the 3.8-hectare redevelopment in the heart of Barnsley. Delivery the new space is a central part of the £180m transformational development of Barnsley town centre. The second phase of the development, Market Kitchen, will open later this month, with a host of local and regional food producers.

The new market hall was designed by IBI Group, and is fully integrated with the wider town centre, boasting prominent and open access from Cheapside and Market Square. The interiors are highly accessible with level thresholds, wide aisles, wayfinding signage and energy efficient lighting. At the centre of the market is an atrium, a flexible space designed to accommodate events and pop-ups, flooded with natural light from the roof light above.

The redevelopment of the town centre being delivered by the council, and its development manager Queensberry. It includes new retail, family-friendly restaurants, Cineworld, Superbowl UK and Library @ the Lightbox, plus significant public realm improvements including a new landmark public square.

Queensberry commercial director and co-founder Stuart Harris said: “The opening of Barnsley Market is hugely important as it signifies the progression that the scheme has made and reflects the evolution into phase two of the project. The Markets will serve as an anchor to this transformational development proving more variety and a more evolving offer than many traditional department store anchors. Barnsley market has been the focal point of the town since 1249 and will continue to attract people from far and wide generating both footfall and vitality to the town centre.”

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  1. I very much hope that this new market, and the new development all around it are a real success for the town. It has been long in gestation and this scheme is merely the latest in a number of proposed schemes for thetown, at least one of which has been partially completed.

    My concern is that the basis for the rebuild was driven by two quite separate issues. I believe that one of these issues is well addressed by this whole new scheme, and great credit to Barnsley Council and its town teams for achieving it. The second issue is possibly more important, and I do not believe that it has been adequately addressed but there has been an expectation that the scheme would provide the solution in itself. I do not share that optimism, but hope nonetheless that it is my analysis which proves inaccurate.

    Barnsley town centre, or at least the previously redeveloped Victorian town centre, was considerably redeveloped in the 1960s. That scheme provided a new harsher concrete framework for an integrated town centre within which retail and most other functions of a traditional town centre were accommodated. It was, without question, a community hub for the entire borough. Even the provision for town centre accomodation was not entirely missed out by that scheme, because the nearest of the nineteenth century residential streets came right into the centre.

    The economic outlook was not great back then, but the new scheme, much of it owned entirely by the local authority, did address the needs of the local community and the aspirations of a large number of potential entrepreneurs. The market in Barnsley was set out in three parts and each attrtacted a loyal following of both tenants and customers – as evidenced by the then still reliable arrival of large numbers of people whose buses had been laid on just for the purpose of going to Barnsley market.

    This town, whose main employers at that time were coal production and glass manufacturing, plus the large number of people employed by the council and the retail and leisure industries, was still buoyant. The policy measures from various levels of government in the intervening period have each impacted upon that apparent prosperity.

    The local authority planners chose to adopt that pernicious idea of creating zones each for the purpose of one function or another. This separated retailing and leisure from the other functions, bit by bit. Until in the current century the main council building was removed to a newer site further away from the retail centre, thus removing a significant number of potential lunchtime customers from the reach of the dwindling shopper community in Cheapside and thereabouts!

    The closure of the coal-mines removed in one swipe the bulk of the top level economic activity for the area, at a time, moreover, when the pressure of competition from other nearby retail centres was increasing. Exacerbated by the relative ease for locals to travel to places such as Meadowhall, the greater retail competition, the reduced disposable income of the local population conspired to create a general malaise which affected retail trade considerably.

    Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council are to be congratulated in adopting a positive attitude towards creating a new welcoming centre (the 1960s concrete really was a liability!), but whether it will drive the footfall as imagined is a question awaiting an answer. Will the new scheme, as the Leader of the Council once told me was an ambition, plug the leak of lost business which he acknowledged was haemorrhaging in the direction of Meadowhall? I do not think so. The partly completed scheme which saw the building of the transport interchange in Barnsley in the last decade does provide an opportunity for people to come straight into the new scheme, but, it also provides the means for transport out to Meadowhall – a place which is on an altogether different scale to the new Barnsley one.

    The basic reason for what I think is the probable disjoint between the ambition and the eventual performance, is due entirely to the fact that the planners did not fully understand the market served by their hinterland; they had no real concept of what that hinterland actually was (as distinct from imagined it to be!). Worse, they have never properly considered what functions the people of Barnsley actually want their town centre to perform.

    The many and varied public consultations prior to this rebuild, which went across a whole decade of considering concepts such as the creation of a Tuscan Hill Village identity for the town, were narrowly focussed on what people felt they wanted for retailing and leaisure activities, which despite their importance are not the only, nor even the main, functions of a town centre!

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