Wednesday, January 17, 2018

News: McLaren inaugurates new Rotherham facility - in style

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British supercar manufacturer, McLaren, has used the freshly laid floor of its new £50m facility in Rotherham to showcase its latest supercar for the first time.

Supporting the firm's objective of producing more than 4,500 vehicles annually by the end of 2022, the £50m McLaren Composites Technology Centre (MCTC) was announced in February 2017. It will enable the development and manufacture of the Monocell and Monocage carbon fibre chassis used in future McLaren models.

As construction nears completion, McLaren Automotive chief executive Mike Flewitt illuminated the famous marque's sign, which will be visible from the Sheffield Parkway.

The centre is set to open later this year to start building carbon fibre development tubs, with full operation planned for 2019.

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Inside the 75,000 sq ft facility on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, the recently unveiled McLaren Senna road car performed a series of expertly choregraphed "doughnuts" to leave a trail of fresh Pirelli tyre rubber to "christen" the floor in McLaren style.

The McLaren Senna – whose design was led by Harrogate- born Rob Melville - was accompanied by Ayrton Senna's original Grand Prix winning McLaren MP4/5 race car from 1989.

The event provided the first glimpse inside the new composites technology centre which, when open, will be home to McLaren's second production facility and the first ever outside of its native Woking.
McLaren signed a conditional twenty-year lease with Harworth Group plc, the brownfield regeneration and property investment specialist that owns the Waverley site.

Designers on the prject were JPG with The Harris Partnership as architects. The contractor is JF Finnegan and the project managers are Burnley Wilson Fish.

The centre is set to create more than 200 jobs and will comprise approximately 150 production staff and 50 manufacturing support staff. Over 40 McLaren employees are already based at the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, where they are advancing the process for creating the lightweight carbon fibre Monocage structures at the heart of McLaren cars.

When operational, carbon fibre tubs will be manufactured and sent to the McLaren Production Centre in Surrey where the company's sportcars and supercars are hand-assembled.

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Bringing production back to the UK from abroad, the firm expects that when the MCTC is running at full production from 2020, it could to deliver cost savings of around £10m annually.

Mike Flewitt, chief executive at McLaren Automotive (pictured), said: "Today is an important and exciting milestone for everyone at McLaren Automotive, as well as a personal honour, to officially turn on the McLaren sign at what will be our McLaren Composites Technology Centre when it opens later this year.

"It marks the continueddevelopment of the current 2,100 strong company, and will bring new jobs to the Sheffield region which has a proud association with advanced materials; first with steel and now a future to look forward to with carbon fibre innovation and production for McLaren."

Backed by a grant of up to £12m via the Sheffield city region (SCR), the investment is set to have a £100m of GVA (gross value added) benefit to the local economy by 2028.

The McLaren Group recently recorded another record year of growth, selling a total of 3,340 cars in 2017. It has an ambitious "Track22" business plan that sets out and supports growth. Long-term, the plan includes launching 15 new cars and/or derivatives up to 2022, with three revealed to date.

McLaren Automotive website

Images: McLaren

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News: Transport for the North outlines long term plan

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Transport for the North (TfN) has published its thirty year plan, the first of its kind, which outlines how transport connections across the North of England need to be transformed by 2050 to drive growth and close the economic gap between the North and the rest of England.

TfN brings together representatives from across the North and is being given statutory status by the Government so that the organisation's plans are formally considered by Whitehall when taking decisions about transport investment in the North.

Aimed at rebalancing the UK's economy through a sustained 30-year programme of transport infrastructure investment, the Draft Strategic Transport Plan could deliver a £100 billion economic boost and 850,000 additional jobs by 2050.

The organisation is working to make it easier for people and goods to travel across the region, improving access to jobs, supporting businesses and improving the movement of freight and goods across the North and to ports and airports.

Seven corridors of opportunity are identified in the plan that are key to achieving these aims. For example, Rotherham and the Sheffield city region (SCR) are key to the Southern Pennines corridor which identifies proposed road and rail improvements from the Port of Liverpool to the Humber Ports, via Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region, as well as strengthening cross-border movements into the East Midlands.

The North West to Sheffield City Region corridor looks at strengthening rail connectivity between the advanced manufacturing clusters and assets in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region, with improved connectivity from the North in to Scotland.

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Alongside the corridors, Transport for the North has for the first time outlined its emerging vision for Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), a rapid, reliable and resilient rail network between the North's six biggest cities and other economic centres. This is accompanied by an updated Rail Strategy for investment in the North's existing lines, stations, services and franchise operations, reflecting the planned integration of Rail North into Transport for the North in April this year.

The vision for NPR includes upgraded lines between Sheffield and Manchester and Sheffield and Hull. The Government has been working closely with TfN in the development work for junctions between NPR and HS2. For example, a junction north of Sheffield at Clayton, would enable trains to run through Sheffield and re-join the HS2 mainline to Leeds. It is being considered in the design by HS2 Ltd as part of the Phase 2B Hybrid Bill work but the loop North of Sheffield has not yet been committed to.

Using new junctions on to the HS2 mainline in Yorkshire, Sheffield to Leeds journey times could be around 26 minutes, compared with 41 minutes currently.

Another project that is progressing is the Trans Pennine Tunnel. TfN is leading on developing alternative options after a long tunnel under the Peak District National Park was considered to be technically feasible but would have a cost that would be prohibitive and offer poor value for money.

The investment priorities are backed up by research that links the North's prime capabilities in advanced manufacturing, digital, energy and health innovation. Rotherham is picked out as an economic centre and improving access to the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and its assets is a priority.

John Cridland, Transport for the North Chairman, said: "The North is a rich, diverse region and home to around 16 million people. We have vibrant communities, buzzing cities, five stunning national parks, an abundance of talent and a wealth of high-performing businesses. Transport for the North's vision is of a thriving North of England, where modern transport connections drive economic growth and support an excellent quality of life.

"For the first time, civic and business leaders and transport operators are speaking with one voice on transport to make sure the North fulfils its potential. Our plan proposes a revolutionary investment programme that will make it possible to travel to high quality jobs. This is an ambitious programme that will improve our roads and railways, and will also drive a sea change in skills development in the North and ensuring we meet that historic gap in investment."

Martin McKervey, a Sheffield City Region LEP Board lead member for Transport, and a member of Transport for the North Partnership Board, added: "Sheffield City Region has worked closely with Transport for the North in the development of this important Plan and we are very supportive of its aims and ambitions with regard to the strategic role of transport in enabling the realisation of the Northern Powerhouse."

The SCR has recently published its own transport strategy that aims to grow the regional economy by £500m, boosting economic growth by making it easier for people, particularly those in the most deprived areas, to get to work or places of education.

TfN website
SCR website

Images: TfN

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News: Specsavers Rotherham unveils expansion

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Specsavers in Rotherham town centre has unveiled its brand new store refurbishment and expansion, representing a major investment in community health provision and creating new jobs.

The Specsavers store on College Street has expanded to fill another two empty units adjacent to its existing first floor space, providing three additional testing rooms equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for eye tests.

The expansion was officially opened by the Mayor, Councillor Eve Keenan, at the end of 2017.

Visitors to the store were invited to look around the new space and enjoy some refreshments. Children were handed balloons and there was even a giant pair of glasses posing for photos with members of the public.

Steve Cheshire store director at Rotherham Specsavers, where he has worked for more than 25 years, said: "We;re so grateful for our loyal customers, who have made this fantastic expansion possible. We look forward to many more years of business in Rotherham, keeping the local high street alive.

"We have been offering the very best in customer service for many years – in fact many of our staff have been here for a decade or more and are truly experts in what they do.

"We are very pleased to unveil shiny new premises with added space and modern facilities to match."

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The store has already employed a new staff member to manage the increased demand, and plans to recruit further for both entry-level customer service staff and qualified optical professionals.

The expanded shop floor allows Specsavers to stock more than 1,400 frames, giving customers more choice than ever when it comes to choosing glasses that make them feel comfortable and fashionable. There will also be a larger waiting area, so customers can wait for their appointment in comfort.

Specsavers is a partnership of nearly 2,000 locally-run businesses. operating under a joint venture partnership model similar to a franchise, a typical store has two directors who buy a 50% equity share and share the profits with Specsavers.

For 2016/17, when the group sold more than 20 million frames, 425 million contact lenses and 338,000 hearing aids worldwide, overall group revenue rose to £2.27 billion, up 6.6% on 2015/16. This includes total UK revenue of £1.32 billion, up 6.1% on the previous year.

Specsavers website

Images: Specsavers

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

News: INEOS outlines Rotherham case to Planning Inspectorate

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Having sidestepped the local planning authority in Rotherham, the oil and gas exploration and production business, INEOS, has put forward its case for why the Government's Planning Inspectorate should approve its proposals for a test well at Harthill.

Having been given the "hurry-up" by Government, 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.

Planners and councillors in Rotherham were left shocked, disappointed, disgusted as INEOS appealed to the Planning Inspectorate over the non-determination of the application.

INEOS has now submitted a Statement of Case via its planning consultants, Turley, ahead of a potential public inquiry later this year.

With the application for a shale gas test drilling well validated by the Counil in June, the statement notes that it should have been determined by October 6 2017. The application was due to be discussed at a special meeting of the planning board that was set for November 23 and was heading for refusal after the Council's transport planners raised concerns over road safety.

The meeting was put back to early 2018 with Cllr. Atkin, chair of the planning board at Rotherham Council, stating last month that it was INEOS that asked for an extension so that they could overcome the objections.

The case for approval centres on Rotherham Council's concerns over "poor" ecological surveys and assessments undertaken by the applicant that "fall considerably short."

The authority's other reason for refusal that would have been recommended to the planing board is over highways.

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The statement sets out that: "The proposed traffic management process is currently the main issue between the Appellant and the Council."

The Council have been unsatisfied that that it includes adequate mitigation in terms of protecting the safety of other road users on the intended route along Packman Lane and Common Road.

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%.

A traffic management plan (TMP) assessed how large vehicles, potentially with an abnormal wide load of 4.1m, would travel to and from the site from junction 30 of the M1, 9.5 km away.

A draft TMP included measures such as using escort vehicles as HGVs travel in convoy, seven potential formal passing places within the adopted highway boundary, traffic management, such as STOP/GO signs, at junctions, warning signs, and the trimming of hedgerows to allow the movement of abnormal loads.

After concerns were raised by the Council the TMP was amended to include "the temporary restriction of Packman Lane, Common Road and Harthill Field Road to one-way movement of general traffic by the implementation of a traffic regulation order (TRO)."

Waiting laybys would be used as HGVs negotiate the Common Road/Harthill Field Road junction that "is somewhat constrained."

The amendments also show that abnormal loads will be reconfigured to reduce the maximum width of these loads to 3.5m. Nine potential locations of informal passing places have also been identified along Packman Lane.

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Ian Ferguson, senior highway development control officer at Rotherham Council is yet to be convinced by the amended TMP which is based on implementing a traffic regulation order (TRO).

Ferguson said: "The Council cannot make an order which would have the effect of preventing, at any time, access for pedestrians to any premises situated on or adjacent the road or to any other premises accessible for pedestrians from, and only from, the road ... There are several families living along Packman Lane.

"The Council as Highway Authority is not prepared to make such an order since it is not satisfied that traffic should be restricted or prohibited, the alternative route is not suitable and access for pedestrians to premises situated on or adjacent the road cannot be prevented."

Concerns were also raised over HGVs that are 3.5m wide leaving no space for any other road user. 3.5m coincides with the overall width of highway along significant lengths of the route measured between hedges.

The officer also disagrees with the applicants view that 9m long vehicles can negotiate the Common Road/Harthill Field Road junction and adds that the passing places on Packman Lane are not adequately spaced.

Statements and interested party comments are due with the planning inspector, Helen Skinner, by February 8. A date for a potential public inquiry has not been set.

With INEOS submitting an appeal, it essentially means that the application is refused. The planning board in Rotherham will still need 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 board pencilled in a meeting on January 25 to discuss the proposals in public.

INEOS website

Images: INEOS / Turley

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News: Westgate Chambers redevelopment given planning OK

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Plans for the long-awaited revamp of a prominent building in Rotherham town centre have been approved and developers are hoping to attract new restaurants, entertainment and leisure facilities to the £10m scheme.

Rothbiz reported last week that the planning application for the 0.275 hectare property, which includes a Grade II Listed Building, was being recommended for approval.

The planning board at Rotherham Council approved the plans, despite a number of concerns and objections over the impact on the conservation area, the loss of a historic building and the relationship between residential and leisure uses.

Sheffield-based HMP Bespoke Construction Ltd is leading on the latest scheme, which has an estimated gross development value of £10.7m and includes two interrelated developments.

For the existing building, the plan is for the addition of new shopfronts, in keeping with the heritage-led development of the nearby High Street, with three floors of contemporary apartments above.

A brand new building containing retail space and flats on Domine Lane is set to bring "high quality contemporary architecture, which will lift the street scene and continue the recent contemporary development."

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61 apartments are set to be created with the basement and ground floors to contain the uses suitable for retail, drinking establishments and the first and second floors for residential.

The existing courtyard entrance will be moved to the bottom of the street, which will potentially allow the Council to pedestrianise Domine Lane as detailed in the Town Centre Masterplan.

The site, close to the important regeneration site of Forge Island, was bought by the Council in 2006.

Cllr Denise Lelliott, Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy at Rotherham Council, said: "One of the Council's key priorities is to help local people and businesses benefit from a growing economy, with a thriving town centre and more people living, working and spending their leisure time here.

"We are already seeing new developments in the town centre – including housing developments on Ship Hill and High Street, a new bar within Westgate Chambers, and restaurant close by – and these developments reflect the growing confidence investors have with our town centre regeneration plans."

Peter Hill, director of HMP Bespoke Construction Ltd, added: "These are exciting times ahead for all concerned with this prestigious scheme. We now look forward to it moving forward with the additional regeneration of Rotherham town centre, bringing in new restaurants, entertainment and leisure facilities to help new residents to live, work, rest and play within the town centre and most important of all creating new town centre jobs."

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Concerns were raised over the firm's plans to demolish un-listed buildings on Domine Lane - a block of 1950s offices which is considered not be of special interest and a further block of "rather fine" Victorian commercial buildings.

The planning board heard that officers have been in discussions with the developer for a number of months to arrive at a scheme that is considered to be acceptable and of benefit to the town centre. The demolition would make the scheme viable and the prospect of the refurbishment and reuse of the listed building on the corner of Main Street and Westgate was considered justification for the proposals.

Historic England objected to the plans but the Council considers that the loss of the buildings would lead to less than substantial harm to the Town Centre Conservation Area.
Speaking at the planning board meeting, Mark McGrail, the owner of the adjacent 1915 Bar, raised concerns over the problems with approving residential use next to late night licensed venues.

McGrail said: "The scheme itself is fantastic. It looks brilliant. My only objection is the pulling of the Victorian building and the design.

"We are licensed to 4am in the morning and privacy wise and noise wise you are guaranteed that, on the first day of that opening, it's going to be a non-stop environmental nightmare. I wouldn't want to live there. I'm proud of the club but I wouldn't want to be woken up at two o'clock in the morning because of people coming out."

Having renovated the former pub close to the town's old Post office, and well underway with converting the historic George Wright Building into a boutique hotel and bar, McGrail added that he could have easily led on a renovation of the Victorian building on Domine Lane without the need to knock it down.

Council planners conclude that the proposed building would not impinge of the privacy of the patrons of the 1915 Bar. Additional studies submitted with the application make clear that noise from existing leisure venues should not be a problem provided that the suggested noise mitigation measures are put in place by the developer.

Images: HMP Bespoke Construction / Self Architects

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