Barnsley Council reiterated its commitment to The Glass Works, the town centre’s transformative regeneration scheme, at a meeting on 27 May.
Members of Barnsley Council’s ruling cabinet approved recommendations from a report that outlines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the project.
Despite building work slowing due to the pandemic, the scheme remains on schedule for a late 2021 completion, just a few months later than originally scheduled.
The report illustrated how the delay has been kept to a minimum thanks to the council and contractor Henry Boot Construction Limited working together to ensure the site remains operational, while more importantly remaining safe and adhering to government advice on social distancing.
While the site is currently operating at around 75 per cent capacity, this is expected to increase in the coming weeks.
Ryan O’Loughlin, Director at Henry Boot, said: “Our first priority is the health, safety and wellbeing of our people and the communities we work in.
“The Glass Works project team have done a tremendous job in overcoming the unique challenges posed by Covid-19. The team continue to review how tasks can be performed effectively and safely, while operating in line with the government’s directives as issued by Public Health England.
“This has involved detailed engagement with our partners, clients, contractors, supply chains and their workforce. We will continue to review these plans and listen to all the expert advice available regarding Covid-19 and safe working practices.”
The report also details how – despite national uncertainty on the high street being amplified following the outbreak – the council is in negotiations with a major national operator for The Glass Works, in addition to the ten operators already signed.
Those include leisure anchors Cineworld and Superbowl UK, retail anchor Next, Sports Direct including fashion arm USC, Muffin Break, national restaurant chain Nando’s, independent restaurant MEET and the already open Falco Lounge, Coffee Boy and JD Sports.
Significant progress has already been made on the Cineworld site, as shown here by a fly-through video of The Glass Works site filmed this month.
Wednesday’s report also illustrates the support Glass Works tenants have received since the country was put in lockdown in late March.
Alongside traders inside Barnsley Market and Market Kitchen – the scheme’s independent food court – tenants have received rent breaks to help them through this difficult trading period. This is in addition to grants already paid to several town centre businesses, further illustrating the council’s commitment to positioning Barnsley town centre as a prime leisure and retail destination.
Barnsley Market remains a key anchor of The Glass Works. Stalls providing essential goods have remained trading throughout the pandemic, and more details of the market’s wider reopening plans – including the safety and social distancing measures in place – will be revealed in due course.
The wider town centre continues to enjoy ongoing investment. As well as a raft of new businesses opening their doors in the last two years, significant progress has been made on the DMC2, part of the Digital Campus, along with proposed investment on Eldon Street.
Overall, The Glass Works is set to create approximately 1,100 jobs in Barnsley by 2025 – jobs that will help aid Barnsley’s economic recovery plan.
Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Place, said: “We are committed to The Glass Works now more than ever, illustrated by the measures we continue to take to ensure the scheme is a success.
“The Glass Works will lead the council’s economic recovery plan. We are committed to a jobs-led recovery – and the scheme continues to provide jobs in construction, which will be followed by the 1100 jobs the project will deliver long term.
“There’s no denying that the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on the opening date of scheme. While we’re doing all we can to ensure that date doesn’t slip by much and we’re still on track for a late 2021 completion, feedback from the operators suggests that a delay is a positive, as it allows more time for life – and shopping habits – to return to normal.
“We’re currently in negotiations with a major national operator for the scheme, which illustrates the strength of The Glass Works offer.
“That said, COVID-19 has already had an impact on the UK high street, as we’ve seen with the closure of nationally recognised names. Our development partner, Queensberry, is preparing a report that analyses the impact of the pandemic on the retail and leisure market. While we will remain flexible in our letting approach and will change our strategy if necessary, any operators we bring to Barnsley will continue to be the right ones for the scheme and the town.
“It’s great that we’ve managed to keep essential market stalls open and trading during the pandemic so far. We’re now edging closer to its wider reopening, and more details will be communicated in due course.
“As more business are reopening all the time, we hope people will return to town centre, travelling sensibly and spending in the local economy while following the advice and safety restrictions businesses have introduced that will help keep the town, safe, prosperous and working.”
Paul Sargent, Chief Executive of Queensberry, said: “We are pleased there has been limited disruption to construction, we have been liaising closely with our signed operators to ensure they remain committed to Barnsley and we are also currently undertaking a strategic leasing review to ensure that we are reaching out to operators that are the best fit for Barnsley.”