Friday, March 20, 2015

News: Third developer sought for Pit House West

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Rotherham Council is seeking to appoint a development partner for the Pit House West site after earlier admitting that it is unsatisfied with the current preferred developers that it selected in 2011.

The council has long had ambitions for the greenbelt site to be transformed into a landmark leisure / tourism development on a national and international scale.

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 (pictured).

Visions of China planned 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.

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.

Last year the council's, now defunct, cabinet received a report which set out details on negotiations for the disposal of land at Pit House West. The report, which was exempt and discussed in private as it contains commercially sensitive information, gave further information 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.

It was explained that the decision allows the council to enter into discussions with any other parties who are interested in developing that site as they haven't been able to satisfy themselves by the Visions of China project that they were making sufficient progress.

An update to cabinet was expected in March but Goverment appointed comissionners have taken over the executive functions of the council.

The site is available for development proposals and now the council is seeking development partners to submit applications by May 8.

The latest draft of Rotherham's Growth Plan stated that: "Pit House West provides an opportunity to develop a nationally significant leisure development close to Rother Valley Park and the M1. It will create a major boost for tourism in Rotherham as well as significant jobs growth."

This will be the third time the council has sought interested from developers. 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.

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 3 and 4 star resort hotels, spa and health facilities, a conference and convention centre, an exhibition centre plus 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 planned 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.

RiDO website

Images: RMBC

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