Monday, August 11, 2014

News: Termination talk over Visions of China

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Rotherham Council is considering terminating the development agreement relating to the Pithouse West site - currently signed with developers hoping to bring forward the Visions of China leisure development.

In August 2011 the council confirmed leisure organisation China Vision Ltd and regeneration specialist MCD Developments as the preferred developers for the site, located to the north of Rother Valley Country Park.

Visions of China plans to be a £118m, 120 acre cultural theme park set in an authentically built and landscaped Chinese environment combining a range of experiences and activities for visitors.

The site of the proposed £350m YES! Project was put up for sale by the Council after original developers, Oak Holdings made a material lack of progress since entering a preferred developer agreement in 2003.

In November 2012, council officers sought an urgent agreement from councillors to complete the sale agreements and head leases for 180 and 153 acres of former opencast land, which is classed as greenbelt.

Now the cabinet at Rotherham Council has received a report which set out details on negotiations for the disposal of land at Pithouse West following the previous decisions in 2012.

The report, which was exempt and discussed in private as it contains commercially sensitive information, was put together by Karl Battersby, Strategic Director Environment and Development Services and introduced by Cllr. Beck, Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration.

Further information was provided on the previous agreement and its terms of sale, milestone events, update on the current scheme and the reason for consideration of the termination of the development agreement.

Recommendations were approved by the cabinet and a progress report is set to be presented to in three months' time.

As the report is exempt it is unclear whether a new agreement will be signed with the preferred developers or whether the whole process, which has been ongoing for over ten years, will be back to square one.

In fact, the reclamation of Brookhouse Colliery and incorporation into the Rother Valley Country Park to enhance its attraction as a regional facility was first mooted when the colliery operations closed in 1985. After purchasing the site from the Coal Authority, the council began the search for a developer in March 2002.
The YES! Project was set to create the largest undercover leisure based scheme in Europe. Outline planning approval was granted in 2007 and updated plans were approved in September 2010. Extreme sports specialist Venture Xtreme and golf driving range company Baydrive were the first tenants to sign up and in 2008 and Oak secured a deal with the Sheffield Steelers ice hockey team to develop a new state-of-the-art purpose-built arena on the site.

The plans also included an indoor climbing facility, ice climbing, snow room, diving centre, access mall and changing rooms plus a hydrodome complex, indoor surf centre, rope park pavilion, indoor sky diving, a Top Chip hall and a Via Ferratta (an adventure climbing system).

Visions of China plans to include oriental lakes and gardens, China Town retail street, a Shaolin temple and cultural centre, a theatre, children's fantasy land, restaurants, an oriental spa, pavilions, a pagoda and a hotel.

It aims to attract 1.5m visitors to Rotherham each year and the developers believe that it will create 200 jobs during its two year construction and more than 380 permanent jobs once in operation.

The developers, led by Peter Moore OBE, who introduced the Centre Parcs concept to the UK, and Stephen Byrne, chief executive of Birmingham-based MCD Developments, said at the time of signing the lease in 2012 that they had secured funding for the ambitious project but the funding agreement was conditional on securing the land.

Images: via RiDO / RMBC

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