A TOWN centre-based project to encourage more cycle usage by as much as 60 per cent over the coming years is set to pick up pace – after county bosses agreed to allocate cash to the £950,000 venture.

The current active travel hub, based at Barnsley Interchange, is set to be expanded into neighbouring units which will see hireable bicycles and e-bikes purchased, as well as associated equipment.

It was set to relocate to The Seam ‘urban village’, on County Way, which ended up being shelved by Barnsley Council when it was deemed to be no longer financially viable.

However the new plan has received support and South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority members – who approved the expenditure – were told it would support the council’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions.

A report said: “In January 2023 the SYMCA approved the outline business case for Barnsley town centre’s active travel hub with a value £2.1m and awarded development funds of £240,000.

“The hub was planned to be in County Way’s car park as part of a new masterplan for the area known as ‘The Seam’, replacing the existing venue at Barnsley Interchange, as part of ambitious plans for The Seam at Barnsley’s Digital Campus.

“However, since the submission of the case, Barnsley Council has determined that the project is no longer financially viable and it has closed, so the proposal for the new hub in this location has also had to be shelved.

“Recognising that there is still a need to enhance the active travel offer in the town centre and change the way the existing venue is operated, the proposal has been developed to increase and improve the offer at the interchange by expanding into adjacent vacant units, reconfiguring the space, taking the running of the hub into the council’s operation and undertaking a rebranding exercise with new stock and facilities.

“Given the reduced scope and grant requirement, the outline business case has been resubmitted for approval with the full business costs to follow shortly as the plans for the new unit are firmed up.

“What are set out in the objectives are the overarching objectives of the council and SYMCA in relation to active travel.

“The basis of the monetised benefits is that there will be a 60 per cent increase in cycle trips through loaned bikes compared to the peak of the operating of the existing hub in 2019/20.

“It has also been assumed that by nature of the active travel hub operation and location, it is highly likely that almost all cycle-based trips at the hub will be part of a wider multi-modal journey, therefore the capacity to increase walking as part of new cycle trips is also accounted for under the same methodology for cycling.

“This is on the assumption that increased capacity in the loan fleet will lead to a proportionate increase in cycling and walking trips.”

However, the report warns that if the hub is not a success within a five-year period, the financial contribution made by the SYMCA ‘should be repaid’.

Coun James Higginbottom, cabinet spokesperson for environment and transport, said the long-term benefits of the hub will be seen.

“We’re excited by the development of the active travel hub and will be investing significantly to enhance the offer, including a mobile hub to increase the access for our communities.

“This allows the hub to be integrated into our wider active travel agenda as we look to make active travel an attractive and realistic choice for short journeys to enable and encourage people to walk and cycle as part of their daily lives.

“The benefits of physical activity through active travel to the mental and physical health of the participants, as well as the environment, are proven.

“I look forward to seeing the vision for the project come to fruition over the coming months.”

South Yorkshire’s Active Travel Commissioner, Ed Clancy OBE, added: “I’m convinced that having a fair chance to make a different choice about how we travel is at the heart of creating healthier communities and a better future.

“Giving people the means to travel by bike, to store their bikes safely, and to experience the fun and freedom of e-bikes is critical to helping that happen, because it offers an easy alternative for getting around.

“I’m convinced e-bikes have the ability to be a generational game-changer and schemes like this are so important when it comes to shifting perceptions around active travel.”