Friday, April 3, 2020

News: Government grants reach Rotherham businesses

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£3.4m was granted to Rotherham businesses as the first companies receive support under a business grants scheme to support those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

As part of a raft of unprecedented measures thousands of high street firms are beginning to receive £25,000 cash grants and will be exempt from business rates.

The first 345 businesses in Rotherham received their grants this week.

Eligible properties, including those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, will not pay business rates for the next 12 months. The smallest businesses in these sectors are also beginning to receive one off grants of either £10,000 or £25,000. The business rates holiday also applies to England's nurseries.

An early payment of £3.4 billion was made to local authorities last week to ensure grants would get to businesses as soon as possible.

Rotherham Council said that it would recalculate and reissue the relevant business rates bills automatically for those businesses already getting retail relief, therefore, these businesses don't need to do anything. Businesses who are not currently in receipt of any retail relief, will need to fill out a claim which can be done online.



Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, said: "High street businesses are at the core of what keeps our economy thriving.

"That is why we are taking the unprecedented step to provide businesses with the vital cash they need to ensure their survival during this difficult time."

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Business Secretary Alok Sharma, added: "Business rates can often be one of the main fixed costs for small companies up and down the country, which is why today's suspension of business rates for retailers and our hospitality and leisure industries will offer much-needed support in these challenging times.

"The rates relief and grants are in addition to the government’s wide-ranging support for the economy. This includes the government paying the wages of millions of employed and self-employed people by covering 80% of monthly incomes through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme."

RiDO website

Images: Google Maps

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News: Engineers address ventilator challenge

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Engineers based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham are working together with other businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors, to produce medical ventilators for the UK.

As part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and the Nuclear AMRC are are involved in the challenge to investigate production of a range of ventilator design options to meet a high-level specification for a rapidly manufactured ventilator system (RMVS) developed by clinicians and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The consortium has evaluated all requirements to design, manufacture, assemble and test components, as well as finished medical ventilators. Formal orders from the government in excess of 10,000 units have already been made.

The AMRC is a network of world-leading research and innovation centres working with manufacturing companies of any size from around the globe. Its multimillion pound facilities on the AMP include the Medical AMRC which has multi-disciplined engineers from a wide range of industrial backgrounds that have extensive experience in solving problems through engineering design, product development and access to clinical expertise.

Members of the ventilator challenge consortium include many members of the AMRC such as Rolls-Royce and GKN Aerospace.

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The consortium has assessed production of an agreed new design, based on existing technologies, which can be assembled from materials and parts in current production. Manufacturing will begin in early April at the Welsh Government-owned facility at Broughton, which is managed by The AMRC.

Dick Elsy, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult's chief executive, said: "This consortium brings together some of the most innovative companies in the world. Every day, their highly-skilled staff collaborate to create solutions that help millions of people, and this project is no different. They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators and combat a virus that is affecting people in many countries. I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives."

MetLase is another AMP-based company whose expertise is being used in the rapid development and manufacture of ventilators to meet increased hospital requirements, caused by COVID-19.

The joint venture between Rolls-Royce and the Unipart Group is a mechanical engineering consultancy that specialises in increasing productivity by designing and manufacturing complex tooling, fixturing and components for a wide range of industries, often bringing lead times of months down to just days.

A cluster of leading medical device development companies from Cambridge are working with MetLase on the challenge which they described as "taking a development process that would normally take 5-6 years and attempting to deliver within 5-6 weeks, against the background of distributed teams observing government separation guidelines."

AMRC website
Nuclear AMRC website
MetLase website

Images: Cambridge Consultants

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News: MP challenges call centre bosses over coronavirus conditions

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Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey is continuing to challenge Capita having recieved a number of reports of failings in following public health advice and in the protecting of staff in the coronavirus pandemic.

Capita's Dearne Valley call centre in Manvers employs more than 1,000 people.

The MP has written to the chief executive of Capita, Jonathan Lewis, after being contacted by a number of worried workers. A reply states that only key workers on are on site in Manvers and the outsourcing giant is increasing capacity to support more staff in remote working.

Mr Healey wrote: "With so many employees in one workplace, if Capita does not take all actions necessary in line with the Government's public health instructions then your call centre risks becoming the centre for a wide spread of this Coronavirus infection.

"This Coronavirus emergency is a grave national crisis, which is why the Government is taking such unprecedented action and requiring similar from all of us to get through this.

"It is very disappointing and concerning that Capita, as a blue-chip British employer, appears to be so falling short in the actions it is taking to safeguard its staff, as well as its business."

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Jonathan Lewis, chief executive of Capita plc, responded by saying: "The only people working from Capita offices are key workers providing essential services - and in this case, only if they absolutely can't work from home. For example at our Dearne Valley site, our key workers in telecoms provide essential services for those customers who need to keep connected during this period of isolation, especially those who are vulnerable groups. Our key workers in utilities are helping customers with water supply issues and supporting vulnerable people with pre-payment meters who face additional challenges around topping up at the current time.

"We have made arrangements for as many of our employees to work from home as possible, and are increasing our capacity to support remote working every day. Where home working is not currently possible, we are committed to providing a safe working environment, including maintaining social distancing and handwashing, and altering our canteen provision so that colleagues have the recommended space between them."

Healey said that he would continue to challenge the chief executive and press for proper action to protect staff, adding that "what he is saying is flatly contradicted by reports I'm continuing to receive from staff at Capita's Dearne Valley call centre."

Capita website

Images: Capita

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Sunday, March 29, 2020

News: First showing for new Rotherham cinema plans

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Details of the proposed new Rotherham cinema have been premiered with the submission of a planning application for the wider Forge Island regeneration project.

The application sets out in detail that the site of the former Tesco store in Rotherham town centre is set to be home to an eight screen cinema, a 69 bed hotel, four restaurants and car parking.

Adjacent sites are set to feature a new café on the site of the current Riverside precinct with land by the river and on the former courts building earmarked for future residential phases.

Contracts were exchanged at the end of 2019 between urban regeneration specialist, Muse Developments, and Rotherham Council, for the leisure-led mixed use development which is designed to act as a catalyst for the town centre.

A 340 space car park, to be operated by the council, is to be created on the main Forge Island site with the new buildings on a podium above taking them higher than the 1 in 100 flood risk level. Entry to the car park is to continue from Bridge Street and Market Street as it does currently.

The plans, submitted by WYG consultants, state: "The development of Forge Island is an opportunity to improve the social fabric of Rotherham. The creation of a major destination will not only attract new visitors to Rotherham town centre but boost local employment through retaining footfall.

"Key to this new leisure offer will be the provision of a new cinema, aligned with family orientated restaurants and a hotel and a new café that will re-position Rotherham town centre as a vibrant evening and weekend destination, lengthening dwell times and creating a more active evening economy.

"High quality new public space will be delivered at the heart of the development providing an area of public realm that can be used for a range of events which broaden the cultural offer of the town centre."

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Rothbiz reported earlier this month that the cinema would be larger than previously anticipated.

Described as "a keystone to the masterplan" the cinema is the largest building in the scheme at 25,000 sq ft and is positioned at the south of Forge Island. Either side of the cinema's foyer are two restaurant units (2,500 sq and 3,000 sq ft), which have the potential for mezzanine levels. Plans show five screens with between 125 and 143 seats and three smaller screens of between 50 and 83 seats.

The design approach developed by FaulknerBrowns Architects looked to the strong industrial heritage of the site which was historically home to a foundry and an iron works. The cinema design incorporates a saw-tooth roof profile with a metal cap and a robust brick podium base.

The four storey hotel at the north of the site has also been designed with a metal top and brick base in grey giving it a separate identity to the cinema. The top element is also clad in metal. The hotel building includes a foyer which connects through to a 40 cover café/bar area plus a separate 2,500 sq ft restaurant unit.

A separate building adjacent to the hotel is a further 5,400 sq ft restaurant in a prime position close to a new pedestrian bridge to connect Forge Island with the rest of the town centre.

The podium also creates a new area of public realm to form the heart of the new leisure destination. The podium and buildings are coordinated around a central area to be called "Forge Square" complete with crankshaft and steel roller seating. A landscaped area called "Riverside Approach" is also planned.

Movement through, and around the site, is designed to offer views to key landmarks, including Rotherham Minster, and provide legibility and promote greater connectivity with the River Don and Canal. Flood alleviation works are already underway and Rotherham Council's plans include a terraced amphitheatre relating to Rotherham Lock.

The application confirms that the Council-owned Riverside Precinct and the Equity Chambers building on Corporation Street are to be demolished to make way for a 1,500 sq ft café in another open area called "Millgate Place."

The proposed foot / cycle bridge connecting Millgate Place and Forge Square is also set to nod to Rotherham's industrial heritage and play homage to Donald Bailey and the Bailey Bridge.

Submitted as a hybrid application, the developers have included outline plans for later phases - 50 riverside residential units on land known as the abattoir site behind Market Street and 70 residential units on the site of the former courts buildings.

The cleared site off Main Street is set to be used as a temporary car park to enable a phased approach to construction. The cinema and two restaurants, plus the Millgate Place site could be brought forward before the hotel and large restaurant.

Forge Island website



Images: Muse / RMBC / FaulknerBrowns

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

News: Trade Centre Group get green light for new Rotherham car supermarket

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An expanding car retailer has secured the necessary planning approval in order to open a massive new car supermarket in Rotherham - a move that could create 180 jobs.

Rothbiz revealed in February that the Trade Centre Group, was looking to take on the former Homebase unit at Parkgate.

The Trade Centre Group was established in 1999 and is now the fastest growing used car retailer in the UK. Headquartered in Neath, the company encompasses Trade Centre Wales and Trade Centre UK and originally had three showrooms throughout the South Wales region, before expanding into the West Midlands. A former Homebase unit in Rochdale was converted last year as the expansion continued North.

The company's Rotherham proposals include converting the existing building as a 174 bay indoor showroom together with ancillary spaces which include, a dry valet area, small workshop, offices, staff toilets, customer toilets, baby changing, storage, sign up area and waiting areas.

The plan is to utilise the existing car park and vacant land that was earmarked for further development to create 812 external car sales bays plus staff and customer parking.

The Trade Centre Group has already acquired the site. Previous owners, BMO Real Estate confirmed that its Rotherham retail warehouse was sold for £6.75m in December 2019 to an owner occupier.

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Planners at Rotherham Council have been satisfied with the proposals and said: "From a Planning Policy perspective the Council previously proposed to allocate the site for employment uses and a fully employment development would be the most preferable in terms of job creation.

"It is noted that up to 180 No. jobs could be created and Policy colleagues are supportive of a proposed development that helps bring more of the site forward and have raised no objections in principle to the car sales proposal."

Documents submitted in support of the plans show that the new operation would create 86 customer facing retail roles, 52 technical and logistics roles and 12 administration roles. Recruitment began earlier this year.

Further details on dealing with flood risk and road access / widening are now set to be submitted.

With a turnover of £255m in 2019 the group is set to grow revenues in 2020 by over 35%.

Trade Centre UK website



Images: Trade Centre UK

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