Penistone West covers the western 24% of Barnsley Borough and most of the area is of an upland rural character. However, most of the population
are town dwellers since the whole of Penistone town (pop. 7,000) is within the ward. The neighbouring villages of Thurlstone and Millhouse Green add a further 2,300 people. The remainder of the population are scattered over a wide area, including the small villages of Ingbirchworth, Crow Edge, Langsett, Dunford Bridge and Carlecotes.
Penistone West is dominated by dramatic upland landscapes and has by far the highest altitude of any ward in Barnsley Borough. The east of the ward is hilly Pennine fringe, indented by the Don Valley. In the west, the land rises to the high moors of the Dark Peak, reaching over 1,600 ft. Over a third of the ward lies within the Peak National Park.
Socially, Penistone West has similarities with Penistone East, although it has more manual workers. Compared to Barnsley Borough, the area is more affluent although the housing is quite mixed with many terraces and semis, as well as detached houses. Home and car ownership levels are high. In-migration has caused the population to grow by about 1% each year and maintains strong housing demand. Most workers commute to surrounding cities and towns, notably Sheffield. Local employment is in manufacturing, agriculture, forestry and water supply. Hepworth Clayware at Crow Edge draws workers from a wide area.
There are several affluent areas in Penistone town, especially the new housing estates. The poorest area lies to the south of Penistone town centre, with council and housing association housing. There are also some less affluent pockets of council and terraced housing areas in Thurlstone, Millhouse Green and Crow Edge which are relatively poor enclaves in the ward. The most remote parishes of Dunford, Langsett and Gunthwaite and Ingbirchworth have no shops, post offices or schools.