Barnsley rethinks The Seam
Two major aspects of the digital campus development, a multistorey car park and low-carbon residential, have been removed as a cost-conscious council looks to major on quality public space.
Original plans presented to Barnsley’s cabinet in 2022 for the digital campus were for an urban village with the 386-space car park and a “major residential development” at the heart of the town centre, along with space for digital, tech and creative industries. Arcadis and BDP advised.
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The Seam digital campus looks to expand significantly on existing assets including the 15-year old Digital Media Centre, DMC02, the Makerlab and Barnsley College’s redeveloped sci-tech innovation hub.
However, the cabinet has now approved a new approach. Influenced in part by the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the car park and homes have been axed, and phase one will focus on public space, hopefully setting the scene for phase two’s commercial space.
The council said that instead of the new-build works, the Lower Seam car park will be extensively refurbished to create a more welcoming space for visitors, commuters, and businesses alike.
Plans will include public realm improvements to the standard seen at the nearby Glass Works, with enhanced lighting, CCTV, street furniture, and significant capacity for electric vehicle charging supported by solar power.
Cllr Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said: “We’ve taken a sensible look at our plans for The Seam given the huge rise in costs for major schemes.
“This has given us another chance to reflect on what we want to see in this part of the town centre, and come up with what I think is going to be a better scheme for businesses and local people.
“We’re going to focus our efforts on a really high-quality scheme of improvements on the lower part of the site, which will support the attractiveness of the site to businesses.”
The first phase is part-funded by the Future High Streets Fund, following on from backing for the retail & leisure-focused Glassworks scheme.
The council said that in rethinking The Seam it wants to create a “new high quality urban green space” to further enhance the town centre experience, with active travel supported.
Further consultation will take place as first phase plans are progressed, focusing on the Lower Seam site.
In the meantime, Barnsley said it will continue to seek funding opportunities for a second phase to further enhance the Upper Seam site as a destination for digital businesses.
Cllr Robert Frost, cabinet spokesperson for regeneration and culture, said: “We see The Seam as the heart of Barnsley’s future economy. All economic growth will be powered by the use of digital and new technologies. This will help place Barnsley at the forefront of the digital productivity revolution and create opportunities for our residents to learn new essential digital skills for life and for work.
“These updated proposals will allow us to get moving on improvements we want to see as soon as possible.
“If we stand still, the borough’s economy will stand still. That’s why we’ve revisited our plans for the Seam and moving ahead with this first phase, while we continue to look at funding opportunities and partnerships for a second phase.”
The digital campus forms part of the South Yorkshire Investment Zone, announced in July with a government promise of £80m backing.
Cllr Houghton concluded: “We’ll continue to look for opportunities to fund further enhancements to the wider Seam Campus as we continue to grow our digital business community and commercial opportunities as part of the new South Yorkshire Investment Zone.
“This will bring even more skills and well-paid jobs to our borough.”