Tuesday, February 28, 2017

News: McLaren recruitment underway

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UK supercar manufacturer, McLaren has made a fast start in recruiting skilled staff at its new manufacturing facility in Rotherham and has already filled a number of positions.

Earlier this month, McLaren announced plans to build a £50m, 75,000 sq ft, carbon-fibre composites factory, set for the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham.

The Composites Technology Centre will be responsible for the research and development of future Monocell and Monocage carbon fibre chassis for McLaren Automotive, as well as the manufacturing of the chassis itself.

It is set to create more than 200 jobs and will comprise approximately 150 production staff and 50 manufacturing support staff.

Hi-tech positions such as composites technician, composite project engineer, and principal engineers in finishing and preforming have already been filled.

For more than 30 years, McLaren has pioneered the use of carbon fibre in vehicle production. Following on from its use in Formula 1, the now-iconic McLaren F1 from 1993 was the first road car ever to be built with a carbon fibre chassis. Since 1981, McLaren has not built a car without a carbon fibre chassis.

McLaren Automotive and the University of Sheffield is set to deliver a two-year research and development programme, which will lead to the development of a production facility to build its lightweight carbon fibre chassis for its new models from 2020.

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The University of Sheffield's AMRC Training Centre, on the AMP in Rotherham, will also immediately start training McLaren apprentices who will work in the new facility.

The AMRC Training Centre is a £20.5m centre where the focus is on students aged from 16 upwards, taken on paid apprenticeships. Part of the The University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing, apprentices have opportunities to progress on to postgraduate courses, doctorates and MBA levels. Sponsoring companies range from global leaders such as Rolls-Royce and Tata Steel to local high-tech supply-chain companies.

Ian Hutchinson is McLaren Automotive's first apprentice at the AMRC Training Centre. Speaking at the recent launch event, Ian (pictured) said: "Today has been pretty special, it's the start of something new and so exciting, not just for me but for everyone involved at the University, the AMRC and the local area.

"When I heard I was going to be an apprentice for McLaren it was quite a surprise and not something I expected, but it was something that I immediately thought, wow, this is something special! Something to be proud of really.

"Learning more about it and finding out just what was going to be happening here, it became something to grab on to, follow and run with.

"My friends think I'm quite lucky, some are jealous and some don't quite believe it!"

Switching to the apprenticeship route, Hutchinson studied A-Levels at school but decided he didn't want to spend everyday sat at a desk listening to somebody at the front of a classroom or lecture theatre, instead he saw his strengths in keeping busy, keeping working.

The new facility is due to start construction in early 2017 with the first pre-production carbon fibre chassis expected to be delivered to the McLaren Technology Centre in the second half of 2017 using trial manufacturing processes in the AMRC before going into full production by 2020.

McLaren website
AMRC Training Centre website

Images: AMRC Training Centre


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News: Mosque's plan for Rotherham manufacturing unit

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A vacant commercial unit on the edge of Rotherham town centre could be set for a new lease of life with plans submitted for the conversion into a Muslim community centre.

Crown Manufactory (Rotherham) Ltd, a family owned business which developed from a printing company and specialised in picture and photo framing went into liquidation in 2015.

The property on Chapel Walk - a 5,000 sq ft purpose built workshop and office together with areas of external parking and storage - was put up for sale and has been acquired by the Rotherham Mosque charity.

The charity is linked to the nearby Chapel Walk Mosque and a planning application has now been submitted for a change of use of the unit for Muslim community activities. The proposal would provide a big hall for multi-purpose activity for the Muslim community, toilets, study room, and a kitchen.

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Multimillion pound plans to replace the Chapel Walk Mosque are moving forward. The existing Mosque building is a two storey structure of a simple and relatively traditional design clad in white render.

Plans were approved in 2013 for a the erection of a new, much larger community, cultural and faith facility with Mosque. The new building is designed using traditional Islamic architecture with an iconic entrance, large Minaret tower and dome. It is set to provide meeting rooms, community services, lifestyle advice, IT suite and study area / library and Mosque.

Applications relating to the conditions from the approved plans have recently been submitted. They cover the method of demolition, tree surveys, landscape plans and transport and travel plans.

Images: Burgess Commercial


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News: Fishing Republic investor joins board

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Rotherham-based retailer, Fishing Republic has announced the appointment of Iain McDonald as a non-executive director with effect from March 1 2017.

One of the largest fishing tackle retailers in the UK, the Eastwood company floated on the AIM stock exchange in 2015, raising millions to help carry out its expansion plans.

Iain has over 20 years' experience in investment, in particular in the retail and e-commerce sectors. Over the last ten years, he has been investing directly into the online and technology sectors and a number of Iain's long-term investments have been into the most successful e-commerce businesses in Europe. These include The Hut Group Limited, ASOS plc, Boohoo.com plc, MetaPack Limited and Anatwine Limited.

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Iain previously worked in investment banking at Numis Securities and ING Barings-Charterhouse, where he specialised in retail and e-commerce companies.

Iain holds 0.8% of the company's shares having invested alongside Bill Currie and Sir Terry Leahy in the placing announced in 2016. Leahy is the current chairman of fast-growing discount retailer, B&M and is the former chief executive of Tesco.

Revenues at the firm have increased by approximately 40% year-on-year, driven by the addition of new stores, organic growth across existing stores, and strong growth in own website sales.

The company's online sales strategy involves transitioning away from third party platforms to its own website sales, where margins are higher. In a trading update Fishing Republic said that own website sales increased by 132% year-on-year and accounted for around 40% of total online sales for the year. A new website is set to launch in March.

Floating on AIM, the directors believe that Fishing Republic is the only participant in the market looking to act as a consolidator. Expansion plans involve snapping up smaller, often family-owned fishing retail businesses.

Fishing Republic website

Images: Fishing Republic


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Monday, February 27, 2017

News: Council's £1 court deal

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Rotherham Council is finalising another strategic acquisition to support the regeneration of Rotherham town centre by taking on the former Magistrates' Court building.

Home of the Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court, the building was vacated in September 2016 and the Council has been trying to acquire the site to support the potential redevelopment of the key Forge Island site.

A request that the property be transferred back to Council ownership in the spirit of One Public Estate (a Government commitment to release the value of public sector assets) and on the basis of its original transfer, was initially rejected last year.

However, in February, Government agencies notified the Council that it had reconsidered the position and that it would be willing to transfer the ownership of the building to the Council, at a £1 consideration, so long as the transfer completes by the March 31 2017.

The Government took the decision to close the courts after consulting on modernisation plans which aim to reduce the £500m annual cost of the courts estate as the justice system moves towards one "that must be accessible through online services as well as traditional court buildings."

86 of the original 91 courts identified were earmarked for closure. The Rotherham building by the canal and Police Station on Main Street, provided 62,785 sq ft of floorspace over four floors but was dubbed "poor quality" and work was transferred to Sheffield.

At the end of 2016, Damien Wilson, Strategic Director of Regeneration & Environment at Rotherham Council, explained that the authority was progressing plans to acquire the connected land at the courts, and Riverside Precinct, alongside Forge Island from Tesco, to increase the amount of land available and increase the development potential.

The Forge Island deal is done and bosses hope that work on a new £43m leisure hub, anchored by a new seven screen cinema and 80 bed hotel, will begin next year.

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A report to councillors and commissioners points to the court buildings, only opened in 1994, being demolished and the 1.34 acres (0.54 hectares) site used for "several alternative, complementary activities" to the Forge Island redevelopment.

A cleared site could be worth an estimated £500,000.

The report states: "It is helpful and timely that the opportunity to acquire this important site has come forward, as the Council's masterplan consultants are confirming their approach to the development of key sites. The consultants advise that including the Magistrates Court site within the Forge Island development will provide added benefit to the masterplan.

"At this stage the site could play a number of different roles through redevelopment and accommodate several alternative, complementary activities. Whilst not wishing to rule anything out at this stage, feedback from the masterplan consultants, who are working closely with officers, is that the site should be redeveloped for new buildings and uses and that a conversion of the existing building is not likely to be viable or desirable.

"The impact of a comprehensive redevelopment of this area will create a catalyst for further investment to introduce new jobs, businesses and housing into Rotherham town centre."

Commissioner Kenny is set to decide on the way forward next month.

A number of options are being considered, as are the financial implications and potential costs and values. One issue is that, due to the tight timescales, the Council will be unable to carry out the usual level of due diligence over legal issues and covenants before the deal is concluded.

Rotherham's supplementary planning documents states that: "Should the Law Courts and Police Station opt to relocate away from their present sites then it would be expected that there would be a strong residential component as part of any mixed-use scheme that would be developed here. Proposals should bear in mind the requirements of Sites and Policies Local Plan policy SP64 to safeguard community facilities, and also embrace the site's riverside location, opening up this movement route for pedestrians and cyclists."

The document adds that proposals for the Law Courts and Police Station site must first demonstrate that there is no demand for the sites as a community facility.

Through the One Public Estate strategy for the Sheffield city region, The Rotherham courts site has been highlighted for potential residential development as it could provide 120 units including 60 starter homes.

Images: Tom Austen


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News: Plans in for Rotherham HE Campus

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A planning application has been submitted for the new £12m higher education campus in Rotherham town centre.

Rotherham College, part of RNN Group, is moving fast having secured funding and will open the centre to students in Autumn 2018, offering a new programme of degrees and degree apprenticeships.

The project involves the construction of a 35,500 sq ft campus in Rotherham town centre which is set to be built on the site where the former Victorian hospital at Doncaster Gate was controversially demolished by Rotherham Council.

The plans, drawn up by Bond Bryan Architects, are for a simple L shaped, three storey building that "encourages and supports innovative forms of collaborative working and learning" with adaptable and flexible space from large open plan areas to more cellular classrooms, supported by specialist teaching zones.

The centre will have an average occupancy of approximately 560 people on a typical term day but will be built with expansion in mind and teaching space for approximately 1,000 students.

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The plans state that: "The Centre for Higher Level Skills offers an opportunity to enhance the existing learning facilities at Rotherham College and provide a bespoke environment for higher degree level education that has the potential to develop the college, town and region of tomorrow.

"Externally the design seeks to create a distinctive and exciting building typology delivered within an economic solution. Our intention is to take reference from the surrounding buildings in form and colour, but create a modern contemporary building that provides a high quality statement for the College."

The Sheffield City Region (SCR) Combined Authority has agreed to fund infrastructure works which will allow construction to start in June. A grant of £3.5m has been approved with the balance coming from RNN Group.

A short walk from the College's town centre campus, the whole of the 4.62 acre Doncaster Gate site is not required for the campus and the institution is purchasing the land from Rotherham Council in a half-price deal. The Rotherham Health Village, including two doctors' surgeries, will remain and further plots will be available for development by the Council. A potential extension of the HE campus is also already under consideration.
The planned centre will have a highly glazed frontage, a reception and waiting area under a full height atrium and also contain café space, a library, shared social and informal study space.

One of the issues is the site's lack of parking spaces, with only eight spaces proposed in the plans. With 24 new members of staff, the new HE centre will need to link into RCAT's existing town centre campus with its current parking provision of 78 spaces and the two local public surface car parks located nearby on Percy Street and Wharncliffe Street.

RNN Group website

Images: RNN Group / Bond Bryan


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