Friday, January 19, 2018

News: Gulliver's finalises Rother Valley plans

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Gulliver's, the operators of theme parks in Warrington, Matlock Bath and Milton Keynes, is clearing the last planning hurdles for its proposed £37m leisure resort in Rotherham.

Planning permission was granted in March last year for Gulliver's Valley - the first of their sites in the UK to encompass all their major family entertainment elements in one location with new attractions exclusive to Rotherham.

The application was not called in by the Government but is subject to a number of conditions. The family-owned firm is hoping to satisfy some of these by submitting further details to the Council.

The proposals, which will create around 400 jobs, are for a year round destination aimed at 2 - 13 year olds include a theme park hub, woodland adventure centre, ecology and education centre, lodges, hotels and a holiday village.

The scheme is expected to be built over 12 - 15 years in a number of phases. Phase one includes the main Gulliver's theme park with three themed areas, the entrance hub and castle, and is set to open in 2020.

Updated documents for Council officers to sign off include an ecological mitigation, enhancement and management plan, a travel plan, proposals for the "softworks" around the site and an assessment of the mineworkings in the area.

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Gulliver's is purchasing around 250 acres of the restored former colliery and opencast site from Rotherham Council. The assessment by Wardell Armstrong looks at previous mine shafts in the area, and the subsequent opencast workings, and conclude that "construction can proceed as presently proposed."

Mitigation measures are outlined for safeguarding habitats, during the construction phase and during the operation of the theme park. A range of enhancements will also be incorporated into the permitted scheme.

The overall site is approximately 98 hectares in area comprising the northern part of the Rother Valley Country Park. 215,000 sq ft of buildings are proposed and the proposed vehicular access comprises a new site access junction off the A618 Mansfield Road. The resort is set to have 1,728 car parking spaces with space for electric vehicles, coaches and cycles.

It is anticipated to attract 21,000 to 25,000 visitors per week during the peak season and 1,000 visitors per week during the remainder of the year (apart from special events including Bonfire Night and Christmas). The normal opening hours would be 10.30 to 17.00.

The updated travel plan, drawn up by SYSTRA Ltd, looks at access to the site. For example, public rights of way have been incorporated within the scheme without the need for diversions. A number of courtesy footpaths have also been included which will be available for use during daylight hours.

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The plans state: "Travel to and from the site will be encouraged by public transport modes and active modes as far as possible. However, it must be recognised that the target demographic for the development is families with young children. Walking or cycling more than short distances is very challenging for such family groupings."

Gulliver's plan to hold discussions with existing bus operators as to the feasibility of operating a bus service into the site. Marketing and promoting sustainable transport methods makes up much of the travel plan.

The site layout is designed to encourage and promote walking and cycling and as the site develops, a cycle hire centre and electric land train are planned to help movement on-site.

Gulliver's Valley website

Images: Gulliver's

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News: Avant Homes building on success at Waverley

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Yorkshire homebuilder Avant Homes is on course to secure planning approval for a 220 house scheme at Waverley in Rotherham.

Avant exchanged contracts with owners Harworth Group plc for a 14.06-acre site and submitted a planning application to build a mix of 220 three and four-bedroom properties, alongside the 61 family homes that are currently under construction at its Sorby Row development.

They are part of four new sites with a combined value of £101m that will bring a total of 382 homes to the Sheffield city region once completed.

Rob Slocombe, managing director at Avant Homes Yorkshire (pictured, right), said: "We are on a fast-moving upwards trajectory and the south of the region is a key focus for us. The last 12 months have seen high demand for our product here and the decision to purchase further land at Waverley demonstrates our dedication to investing in Sheffield, Rotherham and beyond.

"We are entirely committed to offering a product that meets the ever-changing needs of our customers' and this development will give buyers the opportunity to purchase a high-specification new home quite unlike those offered by our competitors.

"Keen interest is already being shown in the proposed scheme and we are taking enquiries in readiness for the launch of the new development."

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Land owner and developer, Harworth Group plc, secured planning permission for Yorkshire's largest brownfield redevelopment, which includes a new community of up to 3,890 homes.

Duncan Armstrong-Payne, associate director of major projects at Harworth (pictured, left), said: "Avant's decision to further invest in Waverley is yet more evidence of the development going from strength to strength. I've been delighted by the quality of homes that Avant has delivered at Sorby Row and I look forward to their next phase of housebuilding in 2018."

At the next meeting of the planning board at Rotherham Council, members are being recommended to approve Avant's latest plans for Waverley.

Located to the north and east of previous phases of development by Harron and Barratt Homes which are nearing completion, the application seeks permission for 220 residential units consisting of a mixture of two bedroom apartments three, four and five bedroom dwellings which are two and three storeys in height.

17.7% affordable housing is to be provided which equates to 39 units - 18 of the two bed apartments and 21 three bed dwellings.

A number of objections from residents focus on the size and location of the apartments, car parking and open space. A report to the planning board concludes: "It is considered that the layout and design of the proposed development offers an acceptable balance between achieving an efficient use of the land available whilst safeguarding a satisfactory provision of individual private amenity space for each dwelling."

Avant, the housebuilder formerly known as Gladedale Group, posted both record revenue and operating profit numbers for the financial year to April 30 2017. Revenues increased 45% year-on-year to £369m, whilst operating profits rose 107% to £45m.

Avant website
Harworth Group website



Images: Avant

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News: Millers show support for local hospices

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Over the festive football period, Rotherham United club partners 3aaa and KCM Recycling donated hospitality tables at two events at AESSEAL New York Stadium to local hospices.

3aaa is England's largest training provider of Leadership and Management programmes and Rotherham-based KCM Recycling specialise in recycling, trade waste and skip hire.

The annual Chairman's Christmas Ball saw staff and volunteers from the Rotherham Hospice and Bluebell Wood Hospice join the players, staff and Millers Chairman Tony Stewart in the lounge at AESSEAL New York Stadium for the festive gathering, before staff, parents and children from Bluebell Wood Hospice tasted the VIP treatment as Match Sponsors for the New Year's Day game with Blackburn Rovers.

Mark Hitchens, head of commercial at Rotherham United, said: "It is always a pleasure to see representatives from both the Rotherham and Bluebell Wood hospices down here at the club, as I know many of our supporters have seen or experienced first-hand the wonderful service that they provide for the community."

Diane Keeley, head of patient and family support services at the Rotherham Hospice, added: "We were once again honoured to be asked to attend the Chairman's Christmas Ball at Rotherham United and are very grateful to the people at 3aaa for the opportunity to do so."

The only adult hospice in Rotherham for the people of Rotherham, Rotherham Hospice is an independent charity and must raise significant sums of money each year in order to pay for the quality care provided free of charge to patients, their families and carers.

Members of Rotherham United's playing and first team staff enjoyed afternoon tea with the patients and staff this week in a community visit to the Broom-based charity.

Millers legend John Breckin, now a consultant at the club, said: "It is a charity very close to my own heart and one that we are lucky to have and be proud to call our own here in Rotherham, so I was delighted so many of us were able to go up there and show our support for the work that they do.

"I know how proud the club are of their strong affiliation with both the Rotherham and Bluebell Wood hospices so we are delighted to have visited both over the course of the last month."

Based at North Anston, Bluebell Wood provides care and support to families who have a child who has a life limiting condition and is not expected to live into adulthood. It has to raise over £4m each year to continue its work, and receives less than 10% statutory funding.

Millers midfielder Will Vaulks has become Bluebell Wood's newest ambassador. Will asked Bluebell Wood if he could volunteer after signing for the League One club in July 2016. Since then he has worked at the hospice every week, volunteering with the fundraising team, and also supporting the care team that looks after children and young adults with life-shortening and life-threatening conditions.

Will (pictured above) said: "It's a privilege to do my bit for such a worthwhile cause. Since I first came to Rotherham United I've become aware of the valuable work Bluebell Wood does for families facing the toughest times of their lives. I'd like to continue doing my best to help this charity raise funds and encourage more supporters from across the region to give their best."

Anna Gott, community fundraiser at Bluebell Wood (pictured above), added: "Will has been a brilliant support here at the hospice. He's also inspired a lot of his team mates at Rotherham to do their bit by making numerous clothes and toy donations to our shops. He recently came along to our Fun-draising Club Christmas party, which was a great surprise for our members, and really involved himself in all the party games, thanking all our young fundraisers for their support and hard work.

"We're delighted to have Will on board as an ambassador and are sure he'll continue to do a fantastic job spreading the word about Bluebell Wood."

Rotherham United website
Rotherham Hospice website
Bluebell Wood website

Images: RUFC / Rotherham Hospice / Bluebell Wood

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

News: Rotherham Council reiterates reasons for refusal for Harthill shale gas test well

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The planning board at Rotherham Council would have been recommended to refuse INEOS' application for a shale gas test drilling well at Harthill - had the decision not already been taken out of their hands.

Having been given the "hurry-up" by Government, INEOS appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over the non-determination of the application.

INEOS said that it had encountered "unreasonable delays" in dealing with Rotherham Council on its plans for a drilling rig on Greenbelt land between the villages of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin.

As Rothbiz reported earlier this week, the proposed traffic management process is currently the main issue between INEOS and the Council with the authority also unsatisfied by the ecological surveys and assessments undertaken by the applicant.

INEOS' oil and gas exploration and production business selected a site between the villages of Harthill and Thorpe Salvin for shale gas exploration, which involves building a drilling rig and drilling vertically, deep into the ground to find out how much gas is in the shale.

The application would provide temporary permission for a maximum of five years and the operation would involve various site investigation surveys and site preparation before a period of drilling, coring and testing. A well would be drilled to approximately 2,800 m using a drill rig of maximum 60 m rig height followed by three months of testing. It would use large plant, machinery and HGVs in site development and operationally.

The Common Road site would be restored after the activity has taken place and tests will be carried out on the suitability of the area for hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

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With INEOS submitting an appeal, it essentially means that the application is refused. Rotherham's planning board will now meet to determine its reasons for refusal and establish its position before any inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate and defend it in the same way it would at a standard planning appeal.

The planning board will meet in public on January 25. Around 1,300 representations have been received, all are in objection to the proposals.

Officers make recommendations to the planning board in order to inform members and support discussion before a vote is taken.

A report to the planning board sets out all of the key issues for and against the proposals gaining planning permission following consultation with experts within the authority and at other interested organisations such as the Environment Agency, Public Health England, The Health and Safety Executive, The Coal Authority and South Yorkshire Police.

For many issues, such as flood risk, heritage, ground contamination, visual impacts, and noise, the plans, and mitigation proposals, have been considered acceptable by Rotherham's planning department.

Regarding the site being in the Green Belt, exploration and appraisal of a mineral resource are not inappropriate activities by definition.

In this case, the report states: "The provision of the 60m rig, security fencing and the temporary portacabins, as well as other ancillary equipment, would have an impact on the openness of the Green Belt, though this would be over a relatively short term period, at the end of which the site would be restored with all equipment/fencing/bunding being removed. As such, it is considered that the proposals do not represent inappropriate development in the Green Belt."

One reason for refusal is based on ecology issues even though the impact on wildlife, trees and hedgerows is likely to be low to moderate. The report concludes: "However the deficiencies and omissions within the supporting ecological data are of such significance such that these deficiencies cannot be satisfactorily overcome through the imposition of conditions."

Andrey Godfrey, ecological development officer at Rotherham Council explains: "Given the high public concern with this application, the applicant needs to ensure that they have done everything necessary to ensure the application complies with the law and best practice. I consider that the ecological surveys and assessments fall considerably short in a large number of areas."

As reported earlier this week, Ian Ferguson, senior highway development control officer at Rotherham Council is yet to be convinced by the amended traffic management plan (TMP) from INEOS.

The Council have been unsatisfied that it includes adequate mitigation in terms of protecting the safety of other road users on the intended route along country lanes. It is also unconvinced that rigid 9m long vehicles could safely negotiate the Common Road/Harthill Field Road junction (pictured, below).

The proposal could generate a maximum of 70 daily vehicle movements during the site development and establishment stage and 60 among the subsequent phases. The impact of the proposal's traffic on Bondhay Lane and Common Road was confirmed as being above 10% with HGV increase above 30%.

INEOS want to implement a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order to control periods of one way traffic by signs and/or banksmen directing traffic along a diversion route.

The report to the planning board concludes: "It is not considered that all vehicles could negotiate this route in a safe and satisfactory manner, in particular at the Harthill Field Road junction with Common Road. Therefore, the measures would not satisfactorily address the road safety concerns regarding the introduction of a significant number of additional large commercial vehicles along these narrow country lanes.

"Limited informal passing places currently available do not allow for a standard sized car to pass a large commercial vehicle. Furthermore, vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders would be particularly at risk along those parts of the route where there is no verge.

"Overall, despite the submission of additional information these concerns cannot be satisfactorily addressed.

"Therefore it is considered that the proposal fails to satisfactorily address highway safety concerns raised, along with insufficient ecological details submitted, and the application is recommended for refusal on these grounds."

INEOS website

Images: INEOS / Turley / Google Maps

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News: Investment continues at MTL Advanced

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Manufacturing specialist, MTL Advanced, has invested in a new automated large format fibre laser cutting machine to increase capacity as it continues to grow.

Since being taking over by the WEC Group, the firm has gone from strength to strength - winning orders and taking on new staff. Following a significant order in the rail sector, the firm said that over 30 new welding/fabrication, CNC machining, press braking and painting jobs are being created following a 100% increase in staff numbers over the past 24 months.

And now a brand new 6m x 2.5m 6kw Trumpf Fibre laser is being installed at the 13 hectare facility on Grange Lane, Brinsworth as part of an ongoing investment strategy.

The system provides superior contour precision and higher part quality than most other laser cutting machines in the market. It also comes fully equipped with a LoadMaster, automatically loading sheets to take the strain off operators and to improve speed and productivity.

MTL said that it is ideal for thin and fast cutting, enabling the firm to be competitive on large volume production contracts.

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Karl Stewart, director at MTL Advanced, said: "Investment in the latest manufacturing equipment allows the business to remain competitive and enjoy sustained growth. This latest investment which now totals £8.5m over the last 18 months enhances our production capacity and allows the business to provide a complete service to customers and the markets we serve.

"Lean manufacturing and automation continues to be an essential part of our strategy where we have automated large scale laser cutting machines, a robotic 640 tonne 7.3m press brake, and ten robotic welding cells."

As a one-stop-shop, MTL has extensive and large scale capabilities with on-site access to all of the latest fabrication, laser and machining technology. It processes in the region of 25,000 tonnes of material annually and are capable of handling all sizes and types of work from carbon steel to aluminium.

MTL Advanced website

Images: MTL Advanced

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