BARNSLEY'S plans to overhaul the town centre were dealt a blow today when it emerged the government does not plan to hand over a chunk of land at the centre of the scheme.

The scheme is expected to create over 1,300 retail jobs with a new indoor and outdoor market, a major department store, six screen cinema, improved public realm and 800 car parking spaces.

But - it emerged today - the Yorkshire Forward owned land that the council had hoped to acquire to help attract developers, has been passed out of their hands.

The Yorkshire Forward assets - which include a huge chunk of land where CEAG and the Carpet World site sit -will not be transferred to the council, as they had hoped, but will instead go to the Housing and Communities Agency.

The move has prompted fury amongst senior councillors - especially as it emerged that Sheffield had been told they may keep their Yorkshire Forward assets.

Deputy council leader Jim Andrews said: "I don't understand why they can justify giving the assets to Sheffield but not to Barnsley. It's absolutely not fair. I don't know what can be done now - we are going to have to look at it but if they are giving to to one and not the other, then there may be a case for a judicial review there."

Michael Dugher, the MP for Barnsley East, said the land was needed by Barnsley for development under the markets project. He said he is worried there will be a government 'fire sale' instead.

He added: "This is a real betrayal of Barnsley. Sheffield will be able to keep the Yorkshire Forward assets, but other areas will not be given the same opportunities because they are not regarded as core cities by this out-of-touch Government.

"We are not asking for a hand-out here, we are just asking for the Government to unlock these assets which could give us huge potential to boost local private and public sector jobs.”

A Barnsley Council spokesman said the council had been in the course of acquiring the assets from Yorkshire Forward - but that while Sheffield got their land for free, Barnsley was going to have to BUY its land back.

He added: "We are awaiting formal confirmation through the HCA's approval processes of the sale of the assets to the council, which we expect to be completed in the near future. This is an important milestone in moving forward to find an investor in the New Year to enable the Barnsley Markets Project to proceed to a conclusion."