Friday, December 14, 2018

News: Off the rails - usage down in Rotherham

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2017 saw the lowest level of usage at Rotherham Central station in nearly ten years.

Undergoing a £10.4m redevelopment and re-opening in 2012, data published by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows that the estimated number of users has dropped to 604,032 in 2017-18. A near 100,000 reduction from the high of 718,082 seen in 2014-15.

Rotherham Central Station opened in 1987 and is located on a branch line constructed to serve the new station. Previously Rotherham's main railway station was located in Masbrough, and was served by mainline railway services. However, Rotherham Central was considered a more convenient location due to its proximity to the town centre.

Following the redevelopment, work has continued to introduce new platforms and facilities for the £100m+ tram-train project that connects Sheffield, Meadowhall, Rotherham and Parkgate.

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2017 saw Network Rail demolish and install a new bridge at Rotherham Central as the previous one did not have enough room for the overhead lines which power the innovative tram-train vehicles.

College Road closed for 18 weeks to Friday August 18. A temporary footbridge was installed to allow pedestrians to access the town centre from Masbrough.

The figures cover the period between April 1 2017 and March 31 2018 and the estimates of station usage consist of the total numbers of people travelling from or to the station.

In 2008-09, usage was an estimated 650,118 which rose steadily to 711,724 in 2012-13. 2014-15 saw a high of 718,082 but this declined to 689,540 in 15-16 and 690,734 in 16-17.

Usage at Swinton, also in Rotherham has remained between 390,000 and 400,000 over the last four years.

A much delayed project, tram trains began servicing Rotherham Central in October and should boost usage. The SYPTE, Northern Rail and Network Rail have been working together on the pilot project which was first announced in 2009. Securing Government funding, the aim of the project is to help determine whether tram-trains can run in other parts of the country.

Three services operate an hour, travelling on the Supertram network between Sheffield Cathedral and Meadowhall South and utilise a new section of track at Tinlsey, which links the tram line to the rail line. Vehicles use the national rail network between Tinsley and Rotherham Parkgate via Rotherham Central station, filling in the gaps in the Northern Rail service.

Images: AHR Global

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News: Council concerns over Don Valley development

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Rotherham Council is planning to raise an objection with redevelopment plans for an area near Meadowhall in Sheffield with concerns over the impact on the proposed Forge Island scheme in Rotherham town centre.

British Land has updated its plans for the River Don District (RDD) on three underused adjoining plots of land in Sheffield's Lower Don Valley, to the south of Meadowhall.

The 17.07 ha site was previously identified for an office-led, mixed-use scheme, but following the success of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham and the Sheffield Business Park in Sheffield, new elements linked to the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) are being put forward.

The AMID vision is based on a 2,000-acre centre of excellence for innovation-led research and industrial collaboration, where industry and academia are co-located in a new form of business park.

The new RDD application includes manufacturing and research units for major occupiers and premises for growing and new start-up companies.

In addition, the application includes hotel floorspace as well as supporting retail, food and beverage, and leisure uses. It is these elements that are causing concerns for Rotherham Council, who have secured the land and have a preferred development partner for a leisure-led regeneration scheme on Forge Island.

A response from Rotherham Council to the planning application for the River Don District, reads: "Further assessment should be carried out as part of the Sequential and Impact Tests to discount and assess the impact of the development on Forge Island in terms of the proposed retail and leisure uses.

"If this assessment is not carried out RMBC wish to formally object on the grounds that insufficient information exists to fully assess the impact of development on Forge Island."

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Sequential tests ensure that development is located in the most sustainable location first (usually in town centres), before other, less sustainable locations are chosen.

The planning documents state that during pre-application discussions it was suggested that Forge Island, Rotherham should be assessed as a sequential alternative but it was not.

Quad Consultants are working on the scheme and said: "It is important to note that this site [Forge Island] is located outside the agreed catchment for the retail element of scheme, and at the very edge (largely outside) of the catchment for the proposed leisure uses.

"In this context, we do not believe that it is appropriate to consider this site as a sequential alternative location to accommodate the proposed development. Locating the proposal at the Forge Island site would serve an entirely different catchment to that intended to be served by the application proposal."

The planning consultants have questioned the need to apply the sequential test. They expect that any retail and food and beverage uses in the scheme would be locally focused, and service the future employees on the site, which could be up to 4,800.

On impact, the plans add: "In terms of any impact on future investment in Rotherham, again this will not be significant adverse. Rotherham, is located well beyond the agreed catchment for the retail element of the proposal and at the periphery (and just beyond) the wider catchment agreed for the leisure element.

"Consequently, the delivery of localised facilities to meet the needs of employees on the site, as well as to serve the immediate catchment, there will be no impact on Rotherham."

Rotherham Council objected to plans for a 330,000 sq ft Leisure Hall development at Meadowhall, stating that it would have a "significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of Rotherham town centre." Sheffield City Council's planning board approved the plans last year.

River Don District website

Images: British Land

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News: Bank boost for next generation of engineers

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The next generation of advanced engineers have started at the AMRC Training Centre in Rotherham under a scheme from the leading merchant banking group, Close Brothers.

Based on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) in Rotherham, The AMRC Training Centre forms part of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) group and provides training in the practical and academic skills that manufacturing companies need to compete globally, from apprenticeship through to doctorate and MBA level.

In what is a banking first, the programme is in its fourth year and Close Brothers is supporting a further 20 apprentices in the Sheffield city region (SCR). Employers will are given financial help as part of the company's long established commitment to supporting SMEs who might otherwise not be able to afford to take on an apprentice.

Nikki Jones, director of the AMRC Training Centre, said: "The recruitment of ambitious and fully-trained apprentices that can hit the ground running is definitely the right way to go - not only to address the glaring skills shortage threatening the UK engineering and manufacturing industries but to create a diverse and dynamic workforce brimming with fresh talent and new ideas."

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Close Brothers is contributing 50% of the wages of the apprentices in the first year and 25% in the second year, as well as covering all training costs.

Adrian Sainsbury, managing director of Close Brothers banking division, said: "Apprenticeships are an excellent way for UK SMEs to fill skills gaps, develop their future workforce and improve their long-term growth prospects. We believe the scheme is making a genuine difference to the participating SMEs which is why we have been working with the AMRC to support small businesses for the last three years and are delighted to be continuing our partnership this year."

James Selka, CEO of the Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), added: "At the MTA we see high quality apprenticeships as a hugely important talent pipeline for our industry. We are particularly keen to help smaller companies take them on and we fund some within our membership to do just that. The support of Close and great facilities at the AMRC make taking apprentices on more affordable and effective for companies that might otherwise not be able to."

AMRC Training Centre website
Close Brothers website

Images: AMRC

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

News: Strong interest in Rotherham scheme from cinema operators

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Development partner, Muse is projecting confidence in landing a cinema operator for the Forge Island redevelopment in Rotherham town centre.

Muse Developments was chosen as the Council's preferred partner with a proposal that includes a cinema, food and drink outlets and a hotel. The leisure facilities will be set within an attractive public space and will include a new pedestrian bridge connecting to the rest of the town centre.

Discussion over legal agreements continue with Rothbiz reporting on the Council's proposal to take on a head lease of the completed development over a fixed term.

Dan Needham, development director at Muse Developments, gave an update on the progress being made at a recent meeting of the Rotherham Pioneers - the exclusive group for Rotherham businesses who want to promote the town, celebrate all that is good, and grow the Rotherham business community.

The first phase is expected to be a £35m project at current prices with a cinema seen as a key anchor tenant.

Needham explained: "Having already gone out to the market, the demand is there for up to 11 screens. Four out of eight cinema operators have a demand for Rotherham and we are in talks with two of them. We expect to enter discussions on heads of terms next year and potentially announce a cinema operator for Forge Island in March."

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It is getting on for 30 years since Rotherham had a cinema. Cannon, the last town centre cinema, closed in 1990.

The practical completion of the cinema and the first two food and beverage units is pencilled in for October 2020.

The Council's agreement with Muse will include a requirement that the cinema, hotel and two of the restaurant units will be pre-let before the head lease is signed. The initial lease periods will be 20 years for the hotel and cinema and ten years for the restaurant/café units.

Work is progressing on the site with Rotherham Council addressing flood issues with multimillion pound plans for new 3.75 metre high retaining walls and a new flood gate.

Needham, whose grandmother was from Rotherham, added: "Forge island is a fantastic opportunity for leisure but it is not without its challenges, such as flood risk and its previous use for the rolling mills. It's about turning these around and also creating links between the station, the council offices, the stadium and Minster Gardens. Forge Island has a massive role to play.

"The water defines the site. The aspects of the scheme would usually be accommodated on a smaller site but we've been provided with the opportunity for more outside space such as outdoor seating."

With approximately 350 car parking spaces, the scheme is set to include undercroft parking that is designed to flood. The developments above will be raised by around three metres which means that a new footbridge from Minster Gardens and a cleared Riverside precinct site would actually go slightly up towards Forge Island.

Needham concluded: "We can't wait to get going."

Forge Island website
Rotherham Pioneers website

Images: Google Maps / Muse / RMBC

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News: Council begins search for new regen boss

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Rotherham Council is recruiting for a new strategic director for its Regeneration and Environment Directorate - the section which covers services key to the borough's growing economy - business support, inward investment, regeneration, transport and planning.

The role is part of Senior Leadership Team at the authority, which recently saw the departure of Government-appointed commissioners.

Damien Wilson, the previous holder of the £115k+ a year post, resigned in August, with Paul Woodcock, assistant director for Regeneration Planning & Transport, currently acting up.

Recruitment documents, drawn up by consultants at Penna, state: "As strategic director, Regeneration and Environment you will lead this large and diverse range of services working to transform the landscape of Rotherham for the future. We are successfully bringing forward exciting regeneration schemes and working with education and business to ensure our workforce has the skills our businesses need as well as creating 10,000 new jobs in Rotherham as part of our economic development strategy.

"Critical to Rotherham's revival will be to ensure that we have a strong voice within the Sheffield City Region, as well as the resources and expertise to secure funding and deliver successful schemes."

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Major regeneration projects include the town centre regeneration projects such as Forge Island and the Gulliver's Valley leisure development.

The directorate employs 1,279 staff and has a budget of £41m per annum. Other responsibilities include culture, licencing and community safety.

A joint welcome from Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council and Sharon Kemp, the chief executive, reads: "We require the new strategic director to continue to improve outcomes for all of our residents. We will look to you to forge closer links with our key partners and investors, and take advantage of collaborative opportunities that are available. Leading sustainable improvement within the Council's Medium Term Financial Strategy will be critical, ensuring that we continue to deliver value for money across our services whilst improving outcomes for residents.

"Rotherham has all the ingredients for a fantastic career move. We have a good service in place and we need an outstanding Strategic Director to join our close knit and high performing leadership team. If you have ambition, drive and tenacity as well as an unwavering commitment to delivering services for Rotherham which focus on economic regeneration whilst at the same time ensuring we keep neighbourhoods safe, clean, green and well maintained, then we would like to hear from you."

Images: RMBC

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