Barnsley town centre has experienced significant regeneration over recent years, and our vision for a modern, attractive, safe, family-first town has become a reality. We’ve invested to make sure that our high streets are thriving, but we cannot stand still. We need to make sure we have plans to keep the centre vibrant in the future. We’re working to make Barnsley the place of possibilities for everyone.
We’re now looking ahead to the next stages of the town centre development. We’ve agreed to purchase the leasehold of the Alhambra shopping centre, to keep its central role in the heart of the town centre. We are already the freehold owner for the Alhambra. We’re in the final stages of agreeing on South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) money to fund the acquisition and repurposing.
This project is a major part of our place-based investment plan that was signed off by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority in June 2023. We’re already in discussions about future ways of using the Alhambra. A potential option is using some of the building for health and wellbeing purposes. Making healthcare more accessible on the high street has worked well in the NHS Community Diagnostic Centre in The Glass Works, and we are keen to explore similar projects.
Why are we purchasing the leasehold of the Alhambra?
The Alhambra has been in receivership since 2021. Purchasing the leasehold means that the future of a key town centre building is secured for future generations.
The last ten years have seen major changes in people’s social habits, online shopping and a renewed interest in experiences, food and drink and entertainment. People are using town centres in new ways, and Barnsley town centre needs to meet the future needs of the public, visitors and businesses. We see regeneration such as this as the future for town centres up and down the country.
The high street is constantly changing, but we’re now seeing the success in the wider town of combining retail, leisure, dining, health and learning. Our award-winning Glass Works development is bucking national trends with a 30.3% increase in town centre footfall compared to 2019. Footfall on Cheapside in quarter one of this year was up 47% compared to 2021. The 2023 town centre events are currently seeing a 20% increase in footfall compared to 2022. Barnsley’s business vacancy rate is currently 2.4%, better than the Yorkshire average.
The Library @ the Lightbox and NHS Community Diagnostic Centre are great examples of innovation. Library @ the Lightbox was highly commended in the Large Project category in the 2022 Sheffield Design Awards, and the NHS Community Diagnostic Centre was showcased as an exemplar of innovation by the Government. The Centre helped achieve a 22% increase in breast screening rates from April-October 2022, reduced waiting times for imaging services by an average of 1.5 weeks from March-October 2022, and saw an overall reduction in ‘do not attends’ at appointments.
Having a more social, varied town centre also has numerous health and wellbeing benefits. Access to free, family-friendly and cultural events, a quality public square, great places to socialise and make community connections, all help us feel more physically and mentally well. Our goal is to address health inequalities and make healthcare easy to access, for all.
Our vision is to create a consistent, high-quality experience for visitors across The Glass Works, Alhambra, and wider town centre. Footfall is already strong in the Alhambra shopping centre, with a reported 28% rise in footfall from 2021 to 2022, and a further 15% increase from 2022 to 2023.
We’ll build upon The Glass Works offering, which is now 89% occupied, and work to improve the quality and experience of the Alhambra Shopping Centre. We want to give our residents and visitors an exceptional experience in Barnsley town centre.
We’ll continue working on the proposals for having health and wellbeing occupiers in the Alhambra. This will help Barnsley people have the best possible chance of enjoying life in good physical and mental health.
Over the next six months, we’ll also be building relationships with all Alhambra tenants. We’ll be a present, supportive and active landlord.
Cllr Sir Steve Houghton, CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council, said: “Our town centre is transformed. Councils up and down the country are now coming to Barnsley to see how we’ve regenerated the heart of the borough and become a double-award-winning Council of the Year. We’re proud of where we’ve got to, but we don’t want to stand still. This next step secures the future of the Alhambra as a key building on our high street. We’ve got ambitious plans to create a vibrant, high-quality and consistent experience across The Glass Works, Alhambra and wider town centre, and make healthcare more accessible for all. This will help Barnsley town centre meet the current and future needs of our residents, visitors and businesses.