Before the children went back to school last week, it was good to see so many of them enjoying the delights of the new square outside the Town Hall. The fountains provide a great source of entertainment for them. And, as they splash and paddle, the new seating gives their parents and grandparents the opportunity for a much-deserved rest.
Suddenly the area has become a busy, focal point for socialising, drawing people into the town. The new cafe in the town hall (run by the team from the Cooper’s Gallery) is always full of people, as is the Experience Barnsley museum, the upstairs gallery and the gift shop.
If you get the chance, try and view the square at night time too, as the water is often lit up with coloured lighting, creating a stunning atmosphere.
That is not to say that our town centre is without its challenges. I know from talking to both constituents and the local police, that anti-social behaviour is an ongoing issue and one that we must address. I also met recently with local business people to discuss our night time economy and our attempts to achieve ‘Purple Flag’ status – which would signify that Barnsley offers a safe and enjoyable night out.
But there is definitely a sense that the town is finally starting to show itself off at its best, attracting in visitors and residents alike – and the town hall square is a symbolic representation of this.
I know, however, that such changes may not be to everyone’s taste. The other week I was stood briefly in the sunshine, watching the families enjoying the fountains when a local man came up to me and said “This used to be a lovely car park!”
It reminded me that in this job, you most certainly can’t please all of the people all of the time!
This article was first published in the Barnsley Independent newspaper on 11 September 2013.