Thursday, July 31, 2014

News: More council cash needed for High Street renovation

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The ambitious regeneration of Rotherham's High Street needs more council funding to enable the work being carried out on historic buildings to be completed.

Local businessman, Chris Hamby is creating a complex of mixed-used retail outlets focusing on listed buildings. The plan is backed by a £750,000 long term capital finance loan from Rotherham Council that has secured £677,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) for additional, much needed works.

In December, an additional £140,000 was approved by the council, in the form of a long term capital finance loan to enable the refurbishment works to be completed at The Three Cranes building and former Georgian Town House at 29-29a High Street.

Now the council's cabinet is being asked to approve further funding, in the form of an additional £300,000 loan and £190,000 grant, to enable the works to be finished on schedule by the end of December 2014.

The work is part of the £3m Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) scheme that sees property owners and long term lease holders secure grants enabling them to restore, renovate and repair their historic buildings which are all within a conservation area. The aim is to encourage new shops, apartments and businesses to locate in the town centre.

Significant delays on the redevelopment of the three listed buildings include delays in securing the HLF funding, the severe winters causing additional damage to the fabric of the building, additional unforeseen structural issues and subsequent additional costs associated with specialist archaeological and architects fees. In addition, unforeseen works to the basement of 29 High Street and the party walls to 25/27 and 29 High Street have led to further costs that were not anticipated at the start of the project.

The report to cabinet states: "Without additional support Mr. Hamby will be unable to achieve a "fit out" of these buildings which in turn will hamper his ability to let these units and this in turn will exacerbate his ability to repay his existing loan commitments to the Council. It is therefore deemed prudent for the Council to continue its commitment to this important High Street regeneration project and ensure its ongoing success."

As part of the scheme, Hamby opened an outlet for ladies and gents footwear, handbags and leather goods at 19 High Street with Sophisticakes upmarket tea room at No. 17. At No. 21, Things That Boys Like has brought men's clothing, gadgets and gifts to Rotherham's High Street.

The Three Cranes has had interest from a real ale pub for the property and at the Georgian townhouse, a new Victorian shop frontage and Doric door will be installed with the upper floors converted into flats. The George Wright building will house apartments when renovations are complete.

The council is able to borrow money at reasonable rate from the Public Works Loan Board and then lend the money at "commercial rates" over a period of 22.5 years. To help mitigate that risk, the council has already entered into a legal charge over existing property assets of Mr Hamby and the properties acquired on the High Street for re-development until such time as the loan is fully repaid. The value of the assets held on legal charge will be more than the total loan debt outstanding.

Hamby website

Images: RMBC

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