Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News: Where's the next Dearne Valley?

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A council "Task Force" with the key purpose of providing a coordinated approach to generating investment and economic growth in Rotherham, will need to identify "the next Dearne Valley."

A scrutiny review by borough councillors into how the council can support the local economy identified that land supply is a key issue and that the emerging economic growth plan should be integrated with the recently signed off Local Plan.

Declared sound by the government, Rotherham's local plan states that 235 hectares of land in Rotherham will be needed over the next 15 years to meet the broad requirements of 12 - 15,000 additional jobs. Areas highlighted include the town centre, Dinnington, Waverley, the Dearne Valley. The only "new" area is Bassingthorpe Farm. However, of the sites identified for employment land in the local plan only 12% are deliverable.

The scrutiny review states: "The aim is to provide adequate land in the right location to attract development. Rotherham's Growth plan and the Local Plan should be integrated.

"Supporting a dynamic economy is one of the seven broad aims of the Local Plan but there is currently no spatial element to the Sheffield City Region Growth Plan. There is therefore conflict between planning and economic regeneration.

"Planning are currently looking at employment land and asking where is the next Dearne Valley?"

In the Dearne Valley, historic job losses in the coal industry added to substantial pre-existing unemployment problems. It is estimated that 10,000 jobs were lost in the area alone. With regeneration schemes such as land reclamation and the Enterprise Zone, private sector job growth to 2008 offset the job losses and helped the Rotherham economy become more resilient. The old Wath ward alone experienced an increase of 10,000 jobs since 1998.

With a strategy of creating jobs for local people and regeneration of deprived communities, and generating income via an increase in business rates and Council Tax, the review requests that the Council needs to know what its "top ten" sites are. It discusses locations such as Chesterfield and Markham Vale that compete with Rotherham in terms of location and worries that sites could become home to just distribution and warehousing rather than area based regeneration initiatives.

Instead, the council needs to play a role in a multi agency approach such as that seen at the Waverley site that has safeguarded the vision of the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) as a centre for high tech firms at the cutting edge of technology.

The reviewers also discusses the potential for the council to use capital and borrowing to develop sites and premises as there continues to be a lack of external funding. This was seen recently with the council's £4.3m forward funding purchase of units at the R-evolution development on the AMP.

One recommendation of the scrutiny review is for the Council to "identify, in the first instance, its top ten development sites and focus on these in its policies and plans. Within this the identification and delivery of a strategically important site should be the number 1 priority for Rotherham to remain competitive."

Images: CPP

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