Thursday, January 21, 2021

News: Rotherham Council preparing objection to latest Meadowhall plans

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Rotherham Council is unhappy with plans for a revised scheme at nearby Meadowhall in Sheffield.

The authority's planners are concerned over the negative impact of the proposals on a "fragile" Rotherham town centre and the proposed leisure-led regeneration scheme at Forge Island.

Rothbiz reported last year that stalled plans for a new £300m, 330,000 sq ft Leisure Hall development at Meadowhall had been scaled back.

A phased approach was instead outlined with a number of elements including a £150m leisure hall development on the existing car park to include quality leisure space and a new aspirational food and drink offer. "Big Box" retail is outlined for land near to the Next Home store, and plans are for the warehouses and land between Meadowhall and Vulcan Road to be converted to create temporary indoor and outdoor leisure space.

The initial plans for a larger multi-level extension housed under a glazed roof on land currently used for car parking were approved in 2018 despite an objection from Rotherham Council, that stated that it would have a "significant adverse impact upon the vitality and viability of Rotherham town centre."

In responding to the latest plans, Rotherham Council said: "The impact test has significantly downplayed the level of public sector investment in the Rotherham town centre and the Forge Island Scheme, together with the continued fragility of town centre, particularly in light of the Covid pandemic.

"Rotherham MBC consider that further assessment should be carried out as part of the Impact Tests to assess the impact of the development upon the vitality and viability of Rotherham Town Centre, the planned investment in the Forge Island site and existing investment across the remainder of the town centre 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 Rotherham town centre and Forge Island site."

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Consultants on the Meadowhall plans, Quod, stated: "In the case of Rotherham, a proposal to deliver a new cinema, hotel and F&B [food & beverage] units at the Forge Island have progressed through a planning application (granted in June 2020) which has come forward in the full knowledge of TLH [The £300m Leisure Hall]. There is no suggestion that the revised proposals at Meadowhall would undermine the delivery of Forge Island, given that the proposals are similar (and no more) than that previously promoted in TLH.

"A cinema operator has been secured and the F&B market interest in the scheme is determined by the other uses, i.e., a cinema and a hotel. Consequently, there is no evidence to suggest that the scheme will undermine investor confidence in Forge Island – as has previously been accepted by SCC [Sheffield Council]."

The plans add that "the impact on wider leisure uses within Rotherham town centre will be limited. The town centre currently has no cinema or other family leisure uses. Such provision is located out-of-centre which are afforded no planning policy protection. The evening economy of the town centre is focused on pubs and clubs, which fundamentally differs to that being proposed at [Meadowhall]."

Plans argue that the new Meadowhall proposal is designed to be "more aspirational in order to set it apart" and could result in "national brands that are keen to get market share but are not always seen to have a place in the more aspirational tenant line-ups" looking elsewhere in the region. "Examples of such operators include Nandos, Pizza Express, Café Rouge and TGI Fridays."

Consultants add: "The existing limited F&B offer in Rotherham town centre (particularly in relation to family-themed restaurants) provides further comfort that there will be demand for such uses as part of the scheme coming forward at Forge Island" and conclude that "there is nothing to demonstrate that the revised proposals at TMM [The Meadowhall Masterplan] is unlikely to undermine planned investment in Rotherham town centre."

Regarding impact, Quod say that the "impact on Rotherham is limited, reflecting the limited overlap between Meadowhall and Rotherham, as has previously been acknowledged and recognised when SCC permitted the extant TLH scheme." When approving the £300m proposals in 2017, planners at Sheffield Council agreed that it will "undoubtedly have a negative impact on Rotherham's town centre which is already in a fragile state."

The latest estimates are that the new scheme will negatively impact Rotherham town centre but to a lesser extant than the initial proposals. The impact of the proposals on the turnover of Rotherham town centre is calculated at -0.8% in 2025.

The applicants conclude: "The low levels of impact identified under all scenarios will not undermine the long-term vitality and viability of Rotherham town centre, which will continue to provide an important role in meeting some of the needs of the local catchment population, including a convenience retail sector."

Images: British Land / Google Maps

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News: £2m injection for cast metals experts following MBO

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A Rotherham company which is a world leader in its field is poised for significant growth following a management buyout (MBO) from the University of Sheffield, which has concluded alongside fundraising to take the company to its next phase of growth.

Castings Technology International Ltd (CTI) is a world-leading provider of manufacturing, technology, expertise and services to the cast metals sector and global supply chain.

The company, which is based on the Advanced Manufacturing park (AMP), has completed a £2m fundraising, backed by Mercia Asset Management, via the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and Nucleus Commercial Finance, and at the same time has been "spun off" into the ownership of the management team.

A spokesperson for the University of Sheffield said: "We would like to thank the employees and team at CTI for their dedication and support for the business over a number of years, as well as CTI’s customers and partners.

"We are delighted that this transaction will see the continuation of CTI's operations under new ownership, securing the ongoing employment of 60 people locally in highly skilled jobs within the Sheffield City Region.

"Progressing to private ownership is a natural and welcome evolution, and the University has worked with the CTI management team to ensure as smooth a transition as possible."

CTI has been perfecting its technology over many years, working hand in hand with multinational blue-chip companies through both research and development and long-term supply agreements. CTI now forms a critical player in a supply chain servicing multi-billion-pound contracts.

The company has casting capabilities in almost any type of metal alloy and has a 1,200kg titanium vacuum melting capability, which ranks it as one of the largest in the world. In conjunction with customers' design teams, CTI is casting complex components supplied into the aerospace, defence, chemical nuclear and marine markets.

The funding raised will allow the company to expand more rapidly by investment into further product development, alongside sales and marketing infrastructure and resource, to expand throughout its world-class manufacturing facility, which is based at the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC).

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In 2014, The University of Sheffield acquired the buildings and assets of Cti and Titanium Castings UK Ltd (TCUK) including the ongoing research work, commercial contracts and consultancy. It was split into two organisations; AMRC Castings, which focused on research and development, and Cti Ltd, which carried out commercial work.

Richard Cook, Managing Director, a highly experienced engineer, and local entrepreneur Kevin Parkin, Chairman, lead the management team in the latest buy out.

Kevin Parkin said: "This is a unique opportunity to develop and grow this highly efficient manufacturing capability now that the equipment, processes and quality systems have been fully developed and accredited. Working alongside our AMRC neighbours, together with the superb research and development initiatives provided by the University, will give CTI an enviable position in the global supply chain. The facility will also allow the City Region to attract and retain highly skilled metallurgically based talent."

Richard Cook added: "The operational management team of CTI intrinsically understand this business and are dedicated to continuing to serve our customers and to working with our fantastic team of experienced engineers. We are delighted to have the opportunity to take forward our plans for the company under our new ownership. The management team would like to place on record its sincere thanks to the University of Sheffield for its support and assistance during the transferral of the ownership of the company and its support for CTI over a number of years."

Award-winning and Yorkshire-based deal making firm, Castle Square Corporate Finance, led by Managing Director Kevan Shaw and Director Steve Bell, provided advice on the transaction and ran a fundraising process which successfully delivered the £2m funding needed to support the growth plan.

Kevan Shaw, said: “It was exciting to be involved in a transaction and fundraising that will see CTI embark on rapid growth, exploiting its market leading technology and world-class production facilities whilst creating highly skilled jobs, for the benefit of the Sheffield City region.”

Legal advice was provided to the management team by Sheffield lawyers, Wake Smith, led by John Baddeley, with Mark Cooper of accountancy firm BHP providing tax advice.

Wake Smith Chairman John Baddeley, who led the Wake Smith team which included commercial property Director Paul Gibbon, said: "We are delighted to have helped the MBO team which is providing expertise and products to a global supply chain and flying the flag for the region’s advanced manufacturing expertise. I am sure that they will build the business and expand their reach over the next few years."

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund has provided a significant loan to CTI to support the growth business plan, with Andy Tyas and Pete Sorsby from the team at Mercia Asset Management leading on the transaction on behalf of the fund, with working capital facilities provided by Financial Institution, Nucleus Commercial Finance, led by Director Riana Azam.

Andy Tyas said: "CTI is a great example of the quality of the SME cohort situated in the Advanced Manufacturing Park and wider Sheffield City Region community. We are delighted to work with the company’s management team and its advisors in using Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund to support the business in its next phase of development, following the success of its University of Sheffield partnership that has brought it to this point. The expansion of its capability across a wide and high-quality customer base is an exciting prospect we look forward to supporting in the years to come."

Dan Renton and his Corporate Finance team at Deloitte provided corporate finance advice to the University of Sheffield, and Roger Gough of DLA led the legal team acting on the University’s behalf.

Nucleus Commercial Finance were advised by lawyers at Gateley.

BHP will become the Company’s new auditor.

CTI website

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Tuesday, January 19, 2021

News: £11m for Rotherham town centre cycle schemes

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Key routes across Rotherham town centre could be transformed from "no cycling" to "go cycling" thanks to regeneration funding.

£11m is set to be spent on infrastructure to accommodate cyclists in pedestrianised areas, on a new bridge as part of the Forge Island scheme, and on creating walking and cycling routes between Rotherham and Sheffield.

Rothbiz reported last year that a Rotherham Town Centre Active Travel programme was one of a number of local schemes in line for funding via the Sheffield City Region's (SCR's) successful bid to the Government's Transforming Cities Fund.

Now further details have been revealed in SCR board papers for a package of measures to facilitate walking and cycling to, from and within Rotherham town centre. The three schemes drawn up by Rotherham Council are:

Contribution to Frederick Street walking and cycling route
Public realm improvements on Frederick Street incorporating cycling infrastructure in the core town centre with amendments to the traffic regulation order to allow cycling (currently prohibited) along this street. Currently the layout of the street and public realm is unattractive and would not adequately accommodate cyclists. The improvements will in particular improve the environment for pedestrians accessing Rotherham Bus Interchange.

Contribution to Forge Island Footbridge
Replacing the existing footbridge across the River Don between the core town centre and Forge Island with a high-quality pedestrian bridge. This is part of the works to regenerate Forge Island and will provide an improved environment for pedestrian movements between the town centre, Forge Island and Rotherham Central Station. Should the private sector funds not come forward within the TCF programme delivery dates, there will be an additional £290k ask from the TCF programme. Either way, the intention is to deliver the bridge by March 2023.

Sheffield Road Walking and Cycling improvements
Comprising walking and cycling routes, supporting housing delivery in the Westgate Riverside area. Pedestrian improvements are to be focused on enabling journeys to the town centre and onward via public transport and making this more attractive so as to support both housing delivery and the vitality of the town centre. This links to plans for a cycle scheme and improvements at Templeborough all the way to Sheffield.

The £10.9m programme, with £9.3m coming via the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority, involves 2.9km of route for non-motorised users. Meeting papers explain that it is "a high quality scheme that will improve local permeability, with subsequent impacts on generating new pedestrian and cycle trips with wider positive traffic, environment and economic outcomes."

A full business case for the project is now likely to be taken to the full Mayoral Combined Authority board for approval.

The funding follows on from a secured slice of the £5.46m announced at the end of 2020 that is set to be used for another Rotherham town centre route - Wellgate.

Active Travel Funding has been secured for part of a Council scheme for measures between the town centre and Whiston and Wickersley. The idea of creating a "Low Traffic Neighbourhood" in Broom is also being developed. The authority bid for £1.5m but have received less. Work is set to initially focus on the roundabout at Broom Road, Clifton Lane, Badsley Moor Lane and Wellgate, with more cycle measures on Wellgate into the town centre.

Cllr. Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the people in Rotherham travel. Many residents have taken to new walking and cycling routines they established during lockdown and so this funding is very much welcomed.

"Active travel is so important for people’s health and wellbeing and this funding will encourage even more people to benefit from an active lifestyle. The schemes due to be implemented will also help us work towards our ongoing goal of reducing air pollution in the borough."

Images: Google Maps

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News: Re-Start to Growth reminder

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Businesses in Rotherham are being reminded that help and guidance is available through the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Growth Hub to meet the challenges brought about by this latest Coronavirus lockdown.

The Re-Start to Growth initiative was introduced to help businesses affected by the Coronavirus lockdown, by giving them access to experienced and skilled advisors to help assess, plan and restart through an agreed programme of intensive support.

James Muir, Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, explains: ”The latest lockdown is another major blow to businesses that have been struggling through local and national restrictions for months. The Growth Hub is here to provide essential advice to these businesses, helping them navigate the support available and find solutions to the key challenges they are facing.”

The Mayoral Combined Authority, Mayor Dan Jarvis and the Local Enterprise Partnership recently launched its ambitious £1.7bn Renewal Action Plan (RAP) clearly demonstrating how the Sheffield City Region is investing in and supporting the local economy. The Renewal Action Plan is designed to support businesses to adapt, survive and thrive in the new environment and to create a more productive and innovative economy.

At the moment, the Growth Hub is supporting and guiding hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail businesses that are affected by the national lockdown. These businesses, including travel agents, caterers to events or celebrations, or companies supplying equipment or services to gym and leisure centres, are eligible to receive a one-off payment grant, based on their rateable or rental values, to help them whilst restrictions are in place.

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Many businesses are also taking advantage of Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s Re-Start to Growth initiative, which gives businesses access to experienced and skilled experts to help assess, plan and restart their business through an agreed programme of intensive support.

This free initiative comprises two full days with an experienced growth specialist, who can offer business leaders help and guidance in the following areas:

- Strategic planning & Leadership support
- Sales and Marketing
- Operations
- Financial advice
- Skills, including Digital and IT

In addition to Re-Start to Growth, Peer Networks are being introduced in South Yorkshire with SME business leaders invited to work with others to address challenges and grow their businesses.

The programme, which is being delivered by the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, will enable business leaders to build trusted connections to support them now and in the future, with a view to improving their long term personal and business performance. Many businesses impacted by the coronavirus lockdown are looking to use this time to network with other like-minded businesses, gain an important external perspective on their business challenges, as well as gaining knowledge of digital technology to help achieve growth in the future.

James Muir adds: “Peer Networks are a great way for local SME business leaders to work collaboratively with others to find solutions to common business problems in a non-competitive environment. In these unprecedented times, we believe this will enhance and strengthen the local business community so we can build back better for a stronger post-COVID recovery.”

To further enhance the support available to businesses, Sheffield City Region has recently expanded its team of expert advisers by appointing seven new Business Growth Specialists. Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s advisors all have many years of industry experience; from manufacturing and service sector through to finance and international operations, and offer an independent, impartial perspective, which can make all the difference.

James Muir explains: “It is a critical time for many businesses in our region. What they are experiencing is totally unprecedented, which means it is important that we have a strong team of advisers in place to be able to guide South Yorkshire companies through the local and national growth schemes that are available to them.

“We are planning to recruit even more specialists and advisors in the coming months, in line with the Renewal Action Plan as it will help this region’s businesses to return to growth and prosperity – making our economy and society stronger, greener and fairer.”

Sheffield City Region Growth Hub website

Images: SCR

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

News: Network Rail and partners launch Tram Train Pilot Learning Hub

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It was once branded an example of "how not to run a rail project" and now others can learn from the experience of designing, constructing and operating Britain's first Tram Train system.

Starting services in 2018, passengers in South Yorkshire were the first in the country to benefit from the innovative pilot project where special vehicles use pioneering technology to run on both Sheffield's tramlines and the rail network in Rotherham. Funded by the Government, the trial aims to show how similar services can be introduced across the country.

In 2017 the Public Accounts Committee looked at the issues of cost increases and delays, the under-estimation of the scale and complexity of the works, and the risks involved in delivering new technology. It said that it had all the makings of a "how not to" seminar for future projects.

Generally, Tram Trains can provide new journeys and connections with much less infrastructure than totally new tram or rail routes. Passengers can make a single, seamless journey between light rail tram stops and conventional heavy rail stations. And with many being electric or battery-powered they are better for the environment.

The launch of the hub is a key part of the scheme which runs between Sheffield Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate via Rotherham Central station, linking previously unconnected areas.

The pilot, funded by the DfT, has been running for two years to test customer satisfaction, passenger numbers, reliability and costs. The scheme has proven popular and scored 96% for user satisfaction on the latest independent survey by Transport Focus.

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The hub is a comprehensive body of learning available free of charge that will benefit and boost future light and heavy rail hybrid schemes like Tram Train. It is hosted by the web-based SharpCloud system and is further enhanced by easy navigation, a high-quality graphic interface and updates through to mid-2021.

Simon Coulthard, Network Rail’s Head of Light Rail Knowledge & Development, said: “The launch of the learning hub marks another major milestone in the delivery of the Tram Train Pilot. I thank my colleagues in SYPTE, Supertram and Network Rail for helping to compile the information and data that makes this a very comprehensive learning resource. I hope colleagues in the industry will find the hub valuable as they assess the potential for Tram Train elsewhere.”

The launch of the hub marks the first major deliverable for Network Rail’s new Light Rail Knowledge team which is part of the Network Services directorate. The team, led by Simon, has been created to provide a centre of excellence in Network Rail for light rail matters. Simon, and Light Rail Knowledge Manager Alex Dodds, work closely with colleagues and stakeholders to share learning from the Tram Train Pilot and help assess the next generation of light rail schemes that could benefit passengers and communities.

Alex, who maintains the hub, said: “It’s taken a huge effort by all the partners to bring our collective learning into one accessible forum. I’m really excited to be sharing our knowledge and helping the development of future light rail schemes.”

Images: SYPTE

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