Future-focused plans to develop digital campus for town centre community

Bold new plans to transform Barnsley’s landmark digital business district into a smart and sustainable urban village for the 21st century have been unveiled.

The Seam digital campus in Barnsley town centre - home to two Digital Media Centres and Barnsley College’s SciTech building – is already established as a place where people set-up and grow innovative tech businesses, explore new ideas, study and collaborate.

New plans for the site propose to add a range of accessible, inclusive and inspiring community facilities for the benefit of all. These will include an active travel hub for cyclists and walkers, a multi-storey car park with 40 electric vehicle charging points, new green public spaces and low-carbon housing development.

The Seam development will fully embrace pioneering digital and eco-friendly tech solutions and actively seek to engage with entrepreneurs based at The Seam. For example, the new open spaces proposed will feature smart lighting which will shine brighter when people or vehicles pass to conserve energy and improve safety.

This first phase of development at The Seam digital business campus is part-funded by Future High Streets Fund which aims to renew and reshape town centres in a way that drives growth, improves experience and ensures future sustainability. It follows the successful completion of the Glass Works retail and leisure development earlier this year.

Councillor Sir Steve Houghton CBE, Leader of Barnsley Council, said: “It’s exciting to reach the planning permission stage of The Seam, Barnsley’s ambitious Digital Campus.

“Future High Street funding is helping us transform this site to bring forward the next phase of town centre development which will bring together people, learning, business and places to help grow more innovative, digital jobs and businesses.

“The current DMC hub for the digital industries has seen great success providing a home for businesses and entrepreneurs since its development nearly 15 years ago. DMC 02, which opened in the middle of the pandemic, has quickly grown and is now full and the new MakerLab is busy with people and businesses developing new digital products. Barnsley College’s SciTech Hub opened last year and is helping hundreds of students to develop the skills for digital jobs.

“The Seam builds on this great work already happening and this phase one development gives us an accessible and innovative urban village and digital cluster within the town centre where we can try new ideas, support positive change for Barnsley and build towards our 2030 ambitions for sustainability and growth.”

Following the development of a blue-print for the whole site in 2021, the Council has worked with sustainable design consultants Arcadis and BDP Architects to bring forward detailed plans for this first phase of development, which relates to the lower car park area of The Seam, including where the Covid-19 testing centre was pitched during the pandemic.

A public consultation was conducted in February and the planning application has now been submitted for an active travel hub, multi-storey car park and public areas. Pending planning approval, work is due to start in spring 2023 and complete towards the end of 2024.

An outline planning application has also been submitted for the low carbon housing on site. There will be a procurement exercise to appoint a housing developer to bring forward these plans.

Further development of facilities for businesses, residents and visitors will be brought forward on a phased basis at The Seam as funding becomes available in future years.

Development of The Seam ties into a wider town centre regeneration strategy and is designed to build a better Barnsley experience for all, encourage economic growth, attract inward investment and reduce carbon emissions.

The Park Mark-approved multi-storey car park, where dozens of the 386 spaces will have electric charging points, will also connect to a new town-centre-wide smart signage system which will use real-time data to direct drivers to spaces both here and in other town centre car parks, including the newly-opened 500-space Glass Works car park.

The active travel hub, where cyclists and walkers will be able to access bike storage, shower and toilet facilities, bike and scooter hire plus a café, will provide key infrastructure in support of the shift towards greener transport. It is just a minute’s walk from Barnsley’s Transport Interchange.

The proposed new energy-efficient housing development will incorporate innovative ideas in low-carbon, and ultimately zero-carbon, design to support greener town centre living and, like the rest of the site, be a testbed for innovation.

The network of open spaces and walkways, with integrated design and high-tech security features, is intended to allow people to enjoy the outdoors, see tech innovation in action, and share in community-based digital and creative projects and events.

The Seam covers an area which extends either side of County Way between Regent Street and Old Mill Lane. Phase one plans relate to the lower part of the site.

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