Wednesday, June 29, 2016

News: Next stage in Rotherham town centre masterplan

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Key development sites in Rotherham town centre and adjoining areas have been identified and a new masterplan is being put together to focus on the likely delivery options for each of the key sites and identify potential funding.

Rothbiz reported first on the refresh of the town centre masterplan in March which identified eight "key moves" to continue the regeneration of the award-winning town centre. The consultation has recently been completed and once finalised, this Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) will provide additional guidance to a number of Local Plan policies which can be taken into account when determining planning applications.

A follow-up piece of work is now being commissioned by Rotherham Council that will build on the work of consultants, Arup, and become an important tool in marketing the wider town centre to potential investors and encouraging further regeneration and improvement. It is also set to cover transport issues in more detail, including the preparation of a car parking strategy for the town.

It is set to provide "bold and deliverable solutions for leisure, retail, recreation and town centre living" and explains that "a step change in the retail offer of the town is required to revive the sector and ensure that it meets modern needs and requirements."

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Rotherham Council is putting together a £17m pot for regeneration in the town centre and the masterplan should identify the capital projects that will be brought forward.

The key development sites are detailed here.

A brief for the new masterplan states: "The proposed Masterplan represents an important opportunity for Rotherham. It will allow the Council and other key land owners to explore possibilities to enhance and support growth in this key area of the town and to set out its expectations for the content and timing of development proposals.

"The production of a Masterplan has the potential to kick-start the wider regeneration of the town. It is envisaged that underutilised sites which face connectivity issues will be transformed and contribute to a new and vibrant town centre.

"The Masterplan will support the delivery of schemes within the Rotherham town centre by providing greater certainty to existing businesses and potential investors, allowing development to take place in a co-ordinated fashion. It will provide detail on the options for delivery and implementation for key parts of the town centre. This will include soft market testing, viability assessments, cost estimates and implementation plans and funding options."

Images: RMBC / ARUP

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News: Rotherham's key town centre regeneration sites

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A masterplan to guide the future regeneration of Rotherham town centre is set to focus on seven key sites. The plan will "set out a coherent set of land use and design parameters" for the sites and will then be used to promote the wider town centre to potential investors and encourage further regeneration and improvement.

Forge Island
Previously the Rotherham Forge & Rolling Mills, the 1.57 hectare site is currently home to an empty supermarket and a car park following the relocation of Tesco across town in 2014. It was identified as a suitable site for development of a town centre leisure hub as detailed in the earlier plan which placed bringing a cinema and leisure development to Forge Island as the first "key move." Market analysis has suggested that there is an appetite amongst cinema operators to locate within Rotherham as part of a wider leisure scheme, including family pub/restaurant, gym and hotel (cgi above).

In 2012, the Council's cabinet confirmed Forge Island as the preferred site for a town centre cinema and theatre development and developers and operators where sought. Rotherham town centre has been without a cinema for 25 years.

The Council included an option to buy the site for £1.5m when Tesco vacated and moved across town to the a £40m store on the site of former council buildings on Drummond Street. It also owns land and property over the river and is in discussions with the Government regarding the future of the site of the Magistrates' Court, since the Ministry of Justice ruled that it would close by the end of the year.

Sheffield Road
Previously Westgate Station, the 1.43 hectare site is currently home to the Royal Mail sorting office, BT's telephone exchange and land used for car parking.

The site has a long planning history with owners, Satnam Urban Regeneration, putting forward plans for a food store to rival those being put forward for Tesco. A long running legal battle with the Council came to an end in 2009 and nothing much has happened since apart from the rebirth of pubs as real ale favourites.

The Local Plan earmarked it for a mix of uses, predominately housing, but not retail. The site is allocated an indicative number of 143 homes to be delivered between 2021 and 2026. However, Royal Mail currently has no plans to close or relocate the sorting office and asked for a policy that states that "the re-provision / relocation of Royal Mail's operations will be required prior to redevelopment."

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Guest and Chrimes
Previously the site of a famous foundry employing thousands of workers, it is now home to Rotherham United's £20m New York Stadium and Rotherham Council's £60m offices.

The success of the Millers, on and off the pitch, has not led to further regeneration around the stadium ever since English Heritage strongly objected to plans to demolish the Grade II listed buildings that sit between the two modern buildings.

Feasibility work was carried out on a potential 100-bed riverside hotel surrounded by restaurants, bars and shops. Offices and a call centre have also been mooted.

Like land at Main Street (see below) it is put forward in the Local Plan for a mix of uses, with the area "considered to be suitable for B1 office and hotel uses given its gateway location and proximity to Rotherham town centre and public transport interchanges. It is also considered suitable for assembly and leisure uses given its location, existing uses and proximity to Rotherham town centre."
Main Street
Most recently used as a nightclub and car parking relating to the Council offices, the 0.8 hectare site is a high profile site fronting the busy Centenary Way. Allocated for a mix of uses (see above) it is currently up for sale, advertised with the potential for retail, leisure and road side uses (subject to the necessary planning consent).

The 22,000 sq ft, 2,000 capacity Liquid nightclub was put up for sale by Luminar before its administration in 2012. Under ownership by Ron Hull Jr Ltd, it was demolished last year.

A £5m road scheme at New York Junction has completed and was designed to open up land for redevelopment, not least the adjacent Main Street site.

Interchange and Corporation Street
The town's bus station also includes a retail development covering 55,000 sq ft, consisting of 18 units and 750 parking spaces. Opened in 1971, the car park has since developed widespread defects and is "nearing the point of being beyond economic repair."

Talks have been ongoing since the operators, the SYPTE, Rotherham Council and owners Norseman Holdings met in 2013 to discuss potential alternative development options for the site. The SYPTE is set to decide on whether they wish to redevelop the site as an Interchange or continue a programme of repairs.

The recently published draft capital strategy from Rotherham Council included an ambition to invest in "Improvements to the Transport Interchange, to address current condition and public safety issues. The aim is to create a new, brighter, safer environment and address some of the issues around CSE in and around the existing Interchange."

Corporation Street has seen a reduced footfall since the relocation of Tesco across town from Forge Island and has been in gradual decline as a retail destination. It is blighted by a number of burn-out buildings.

Drummond Street and Markets
The markets continue to welcome over four million customers per year but the outdoor markets area is underutilised and has significant issues in terms of its access and permeability into the indoor markets area. A redeveloped markets complex was identified in the borough's growth plan.

Over the road and adjacent to the new £40m Tesco, Drummond Street Car Park is also earmarked for redevelopment.
Doncaster Gate
The council-owned site was controversially cleared, demolishing a former Victorian hospital. Led by the RNN Group, a £12m Higher Education (HE) campus is planned here and proposals to secure funding, and the land from the Council, are well advanced. It could accommodate a 44,000 sq ft campus - enough space to eventually house 1,000 students. The aim is to be open for the 2017/18 academic year.

There is significant land still available to locate other complementary developments. Interest in using the site, where any development will not affect the adjacent medical facilities, has also come from providers of specialist housing provision.

Images: RMBC/Arup/Rotherham United/Google Maps

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News: Construction starts on Rotherham Trade World development

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Construction has started on a £5.5m trade counter and gym development in Rotherham that will create up to 50 jobs.

Planning permission was granted conditionally in 2014 for the Parkgate development where the plan was to create ten units totalling 45,000 sq ft. Since then three of the nine units have been pre-let to National Tyres & Autocare (NTS), Al Murad DIY Ltd and The Gym. One unit is also under offer to Halfords Autocentres.

Bakewell based Litton Property Group purchased the Ruscon engineering works on Rotherham Road in 2003 but plans for a DIY retail store and garden centre were refused in 2005. Outline planning permission was granted in 2006 for a warehouse development with 20% of the floorspace approved for retail use. Detailed plans for seven units were approved in 2008 but were not developed out.

Richard Squire, development director of Litton Property Group (pictured, second left), said: "We are delighted to be delivering what will be a signature trade counter and gymnasium development for Rotherham.

"Modern, efficient and highly prominent new property is extremely limited in the town and Trade World offers occupiers a unique space to base themselves in Rotherham with easy access to the local and regional road network."

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Handelsbanken has provided nearly £3.7m of funding and related facilities to deliver the scheme.

Kevin Fletcher, corporate manager at Handelsbanken Sheffield Tudor Square (pictured, right), said: "We are proud to provide funding support to an experienced local developer like Litton Property Group who will then invest in Rotherham and create much-needed employment. Strong customer relationships are at the centre of everything we do at Handelsbanken and Litton Property Group is no exception. This scheme will help to grow the South Yorkshire economy and we are delighted to be playing a part in that process".

Construction by Roe Developments (UK) is expected to complete in December with the units open for trading in early 2017.

Joint agents for the development are Fernie Greaves, CSP and Fairhurst Estates.

Five units are available, ranging in size from 1,500 sq ft to 5,177 sq ft, although units could be combined to form larger space. In total, there remains a further 22,208 sq ft.

Litton Property Group website

Images: Litton Property Group

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

News: Change of track for HS2 in South Yorkshire

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Cost and schedule pressures on the £55.7 billion High Speed 2 (HS2) project could lead to the South Yorkshire station not being located at Meadowhall as originally planned.

Construction on HS2, the high speed North to South rail link that aims to provide extra capacity to handle increasing demand, will begin during this Parliament and has been given a funding envelope of £55.7 billion in 2015 prices. It should reach Birmingham in 2026 and Manchester and Leeds by 2033.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has been keeping an eye on the project and has this week published a report that concludes that the 2026 target opening date for phase 1 is at risk despite good progress and that increasing costs would result in reduced programme scope, and lower the benefit cost ratio.

At the 2015 Spending Review, the estimated cost of phase 2 exceeded available funding by £7 billion. Since then work by the Department of Transport, HS2 Ltd and a review commissioned by the Cabinet Office has identified potential savings of £9 billion, £2 billion of which have been secured.

The Department asked HS2 Ltd to explore options for reducing the programme scope in ways that do not have a significant impact on programme benefits.

One of these options is to scrap the station at Meadowhall and there are ongoing discussions about providing HS2 services into the station in Sheffield city centre.

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The NAO report states that: "The Department [for Transport] and HS2 Ltd are exploring options to locate the HS2 stop in the city centre which they believe could save around £768m, and make a significant contribution to meeting the affordability challenge for phase 2b. HS2 Ltd's analysis suggests that this will not have a substantial negative impact on the overall benefit–cost ratio for the programme. It could, however, mean that a different set of communities will be affected by the plans than under the currently planned route and station location."

It goes on: "The Department expects the Chairman of HS2 Ltd, Sir David Higgins to make a recommendation about the location of the Sheffield station later in summer 2016.

"It will be important that the final decision about the location of the station is well informed by an understanding of the possible impacts on the potential growth and regeneration benefits and on the wider rail system."

Sheffield Council believes that the findings of its own reports highlight that a city centre location would maximise the economic growth in the North and add that the decision to select Meadowhall is based on an "outdated approach to transport investment."

The council has been pushing for a station to be built at Victoria, closer to the city centre, that would add £680m to the cost of the project. It also argues that, as proposals are now being developed for HS3 - a TransNorth high speed rail link connecting the North's great cities - it would be illogical for HS2 going to an out of town parkway station whilst the Northern Powerhouse Rail project goes to the city centre.

In 2014, a direct route via a spur terminating at Sheffield Midland station was examined again but was rejected as it did not provide onwards connections and, while this provided limited benefits for the city centre market, it "did not provide the connections and journey times necessary to serve the wider Sheffield city region effectively, particularly Rotherham and Barnsley."

Volterra, consultants working for Sheffield Council, warned in 2013 that a spur off the main HS2 line and into Sheffield city centre, would result in only one train per hour. With a station at Meadowhall, indicative service patterns showed six trains per hour in each direction stopping in South Yorkshire. A total of ten trains per hour are expected to serve the eastern network in each direction.

Further work will need to be done on the potential for a loop away from the main HS2 line, through Sheffield city centre and rejoining the main HS2 line.

HS2 Ltd website

Images: SYPTE

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News: EU funds key to LEP's growth plan

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A number of key regeneration and business support projects in the Sheffield city region face a funding black hole if European Union (EU) structural funding allocated to the region is not replaced.

Over €200m in EU funding was expected to be used to support businesses, inward investment, infrastructure, innovation and social inclusion in the Sheffield city region (SCR) until 2020.

LEPs were charged by the Government with putting together local growth plans that are the basis on which the Government negotiates deals with each LEP for new levers, resources, funding and flexibility over them.

The Sheffield city region LEP's Growth Plan, which set an ambitious target of creating 70,000 new jobs in the Sheffield city region (SCR) by 2023, was submitted to the Government in 2013. Currently being refreshed, the use of structural funding from the EU is integral to meeting the targets.

The LEP's EU Structural Investment Fund Strategy was only updated this year and sets out how €203m (£175m) of funding would be used, based around six main priorities: supporting and creating new businesses; growing existing businesses; attracting incoming businesses; increasing exporting; developing the skills base and labour mobility; improving and enhancing infrastructure.

With the historic result of the EU Referendum, it is not yet clear how the UK Government will react to the apparent loss of the structural funding that is designed to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions.

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Following the EU referendum vote, Sir Nigel Knowles, chairman of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (SCR LEP), said: "The focus of the SCR LEP remains the same as it was before the referendum, which is to do everything in its power to continue to deliver the devolution deal it secured, with localised investment and power to the region.

"The strength and potential of this region is in no way diminished by the result today. The north of England has led and fostered many changes in its history and centuries have confirmed that when it focuses on getting things done, pragmatically and tenaciously, it is successful. We are here to ensure that promises made in Westminster are kept, that the region hits its strategic targets and that in the coming years we are not distracted from our task.

"No doubt there will be changes in the economic and political landscape in the UK and opportunities will arise. We will be vigilant and ready to take advantage of such opportunities that will benefit the Sheffield City Region. Our job is unchanged, and we will continue to do that for every resident and business here today and in the future."

Six calls were made by the SCR via the Government last year in a bid to secure £17m in EU funds for support in relation to international trade, investment into Enterprise Zones and innovation capital. Calls to secure £12m have been made this year to support SME's, self-employment, renewable energy projects, and improve access to IT.

Through its devolution deals, the Combined Authority was pushing to be given Intermediate Body status and more control over how European funding was spent.

The SCR Growth Hub, the model that coordinates and simplifies business support so that it joins up national, local, public and private business provisions across the city region, has core funding of £4.82m. It estimated that it would bring together a £22m Business Investment Fund, a Skills Bank fund of more than £17m and "access to the Sheffield City Region European Structural Funds of approximately £90m."
Other key investments are the Sheffield City Region Investment Fund (SCRIF) which matches EU funds to other funds and private sector investment in order to deliver infrastructure solutions. A £51m property investment fund was being finalised to help kick-start development. It was set to use £23m in European funds, £18m from the city region's allocation of the Growing Places Fund (GPF) and £10m from the SCRIF.

The Sheffield city region was also expected to be part of the new £400m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) that was set to launch later this year. Tendering is underway for specialist fund managers, who would make the individual investments in smaller businesses.

The NPIF was announced in the Autumn Statement 2015. The British Business Bank is all set to invest £50m of its own capital, matched by an additional £50m from the European Investment Bank. LEPs, including Sheffield, are working with the British Business Bank and Department for Communities and Local Government to aggregate the European money they were allocated into a combined fund.

The UK has a 16.11% shareholding in the European Investment Bank and is one of the four main shareholders. The bank said in a statement: "It is premature to speculate on the impact of the referendum result on the EIB, including the Bank's future relationship with the UK government and its future engagement to support long-term investment in the UK without clarity on the timing, circumstances and conditions of a withdrawal settlement."

The SCR was part of a legal battle over the how the coalition Government allocated the funds. In the previous settlement, South Yorkshire received €410m. It was allocated €180m for 2014-2020.

SCR LEP website

Images: European Commission / SCR LEP

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