Grand plans for Barnsley town centre regeneration

Rodney Fitch International and Portland Design this week begin work on final design concepts for a regeneration of Barnsley’s 12ha of retail space, the first tranche of Yorkshire Forward’s plans for a complete revival of the town.

Rodney Fitch International won the business in May, part of a larger consortium including architect Alsop, which will create the masterplan for the town, incorporating public areas, commercial, residential and cultural spaces. Retail concepts will be executed by Portland Design.

According to Portland Design project director Alan Thompson, the consultancy’s work focuses on the town’s major shopping area, the Metropolitan Shopping Centre, and the 12th century Barnsley market.

‘The current retail mix is very weak. You’ve got the standard high street shops, but it lacks aspiration. For example, there isn’t much on the food and beverage side and it’s missing a department store,’ says Thompson.

The consultancy’s vision calls for the shopping centre, which Thompson describes as ‘a legacy of brutal, old fashioned architecture’ to be replaced with a ‘mixed-use, retail, leisure, residential and cultural development’.

The group is aiming to ‘create a scheme not typical of an enclosed shopping centre’, he says.

‘We want to recreate the urban grain and create streets, give it a new sense of place, where people can walk through, sit and relax in a genuine environment,’ explains Thompson.

‘The plan is focused on extending the life of the town beyond shopping hours by incorporating restaurants and cafés and letting them spill out on to the street. We want to make the place a real urban destination again,’ he says.

The group is finalising concepts in time for the British Council for Shopping Centres conference in Birmingham in November. It hopes developers will be appointed later this year.

Fees for first phase of the project are in the region of £50 000, but the consultancy hopes to be involved in the detailed design and implementation of the scheme, which would ‘significantly increase’ the value of the project to the group, says Thompson.

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