Monday, February 23, 2015

News: Rotherham town centre masterplan under review

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The town centre masterplan for Rotherham is to be reviewed following the adoption of the Rotherham Growth Plan, the strategic economic plan for the borough that has recently been out for consultation.

As part of Rotherham's Renaissance programme, a broad 25 year vision for the town centre and adjoining areas was identified by the community, businesses and the Council. Ten goals for Rotherham town centre were identified and in 2005 a masterplan produced – the Strategic Development Framework. In 2008 the masterplan was updated and approved by the Council as an Interim Planning Statement.

A number of retail and leisure studies have been carried out to assist in planning and regeneration decision making.

The final draft of the Sites and Policies document was published in October as the council finalises its local plan. The principal town centre in planning terms, amendments were proposed to extend the town centre boundary north to include the new 10,000 sq m Tesco and car park at Walker Place, and existing car park at Drummond Street, to better define the area where retail development is concentrated.

Since the 2005 masterplan was published, the Rotherham Renaissance initiative, that was forecast to attract £2 billion of investment, saw a number of high profile projects completed including the new housing developments as part of the Westgate Demonstrator project, the new £12m railway station, the £14m flood alleviation scheme, the new £60m civic offices and £20m stadium on the Guest and Chrimes site and £40m Tesco across town. Despite the government pulling the plug on a planned large scale redevelopment, Rotherham College has invested around £18m in the last four years improving campus facilities.

Following the economic downturn and reductions in government funding, the private sector has significantly reigned in developments in areas like Rotherham where investment often doesn't add up to profit. Without access to government and European funding, the council has not been able to have as big as an influence in kickstarting or part-financing projects and instead has decided to sell off assets such as Westgate Chambers and the site of the former Doncaster Gate hospital.

One project given significant financial backing from the council is the heritage-led regeneration of listed buildings on the High Street where the work of local businessman, Chris Hamby is set to be revealed soon. £5m loans were also made available by the council for RCAT and Rotherham United.

Securing government money, and money from British Land, the council has continued its financial support for new and expanding retailers with a focus on creating a different and vibrant retail offer by supporting independent traders. Rotherham is a "Portas Pilot" using government and private sector funding to support retail which has helped to reduce vacancy rates, boost footfall and increase shopper satisfaction.

Potential future projects already being discussed for the town centre include a long-running hope for a town centre cinema; a public sector office hub on Forge Island; a potential University Campus as part of the Rotherham College site; a redeveloped markets complex; a potential redevelopment of the bus station; and potential retail developments on the current car park on Drummond Street and the site out of the outdoor market.

On the edge of the town centre, the large area of land at New York, which includes Riverside House, New York Stadium, the former Guest & Chrimes foundry, a former nightclub and vacant land used for parking, is being put forward for a mix of uses with the area "considered to be suitable for B1 office and hotel uses given its gateway location and proximity to Rotherham town centre and public transport interchanges. It is also considered suitable for assembly and leisure uses [which includes cinemas] given its location, existing uses and proximity to Rotherham town centre."

Rotherham town centre website

Images: RMBC

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