Work is due to accelerate in the new year on the multi million-pound Barrow Town Centre Regeneration Scheme.
Procurement and tendering is being completed on key parts of the Westmorland and Furness Council project to refurbish and rejuvenate the market hall, The Forum and the surrounding public realm.
A major part of this work will include creating a new temporary market away from the present market hall in two substantial vacant units near The Mall facing on to Dalton Road.
It had been thought that a phased approach could be taken to the internal refurbishment and asbestos removal, with traders remaining in the market hall while the work took place.
However, following engagement with the market traders, concerns were raised that operating close to where asbestos removal works were taking place could impact significantly on footfall. The council undertook an in-depth review of the risks associated with undertaking the asbestos removal and refurbishment works within an active market and concluded it would be safer for staff, traders, and the general public not to be in the hall during the works.
Traders will be given the opportunity to relocate to the newly-refurbished area of the market. Any traders who do not wish to be relocated will be supported and receive compensation.
The units within the Mall will be refurbished to a high standard and traders who want to take up the offer will be able to trade from there from April 2024 while the refurbishment project is completed. It is estimated that the work will take two years to complete. The meat hall will remain open as planned, but with access only from Dalton Road.
Councillor Peter Thornton, Cabinet Member for Highways and Assets, said: “The relocation of the traders will ensure they can continue offering the same great service while giving them, customers and staff reassurance that they are safe, while still in an easily accessible location, with the added bonus of the project being completed up to 12 weeks sooner. We listened to the concerns and acted and I am sure the traders will enjoy their new home while the market hall is rejuvenated.”
The work is part of a once-in-a-generation £17.5 million Levelling Up Fund scheme to reinvigorate the Market Hall, neighbouring arts and entertainment venue The Forum and the public realm that surrounds it to attract more people into the town centre, bringing the community together and boosting the local economy.
As well as transforming the market and The Forum, a Town Centre Community Hub will be created within The Forum which will offer a welcoming new refurbished space which showcases local culture, activities and events, provides meeting, makers and entrepreneurial space.
Public realm improvements on Duke Street and at the Portland walk entrance of Barrow Market Hall will help to make the town centre a more attractive, thriving and vibrant place for people to spend time and enjoy visiting.
The creation of a pocket park/outdoor events space, at The Market Square will enable the delivery of a programme of events to encourage community participation and increase of the number of visitors to the town.
Preparatory work for demolition has started in Dalton Road and will continue through to the end of January. Properties at 77/79, 81 and 83 Dalton Road, 10 Stephen Street and 1,2,3 and 4 The Ginnel are to be demolished to make way for the pocket park and enhanced public realm features.
Access will remain open between Dalton Road and Portland Walk over the Christmas period but will close in the new year, when demolition of the units in The Ginnel starts. Got It Covered will start trading from its new premises at 93 Dalton Road from 9 January.
Meanwhile, a contract to undertake structural repairs to the Forum tower has been tendered and is due to be awarded soon. Work on that is due to start early in the new year.
Work on the asbestos removal has been delayed slightly but a contractor is now in place. The removal is scheduled to start in February and is due to be completed in the summer.
The procurement process has also started to tender for the main refurbishment. This contract is scheduled to be in place by January, with work on the detailed design process starting in February.
Councillor Virginia Taylor, Cabinet Member for Sustainable Communities and Localities, said: “Things are really looking up for Barrow town centre and it is really exciting to see this project gathering pace. It will be a real catalyst to increase footfall and support lasting change, creating new opportunities for people to spend more time in the town centre.”