Wednesday, February 17, 2016

News: Council's £17m for Rotherham town centre

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Rotherham Council is putting together a £17m pot to continue the regeneration of the award-winning town centre as part of a five year capital investment programme that brings together some £279m.

A key part of the Rotherham Growth Plan - the strategic economic plan for the borough - the Council is set to continue to be an important player in the success of the town centre with the long term absence of significant private sector and grant funding.

A masterplan is currently being refreshed setting the strategy for investment in key central sites and the Council is set use its financial firepower to invest in key projects that have been agreed in principle as those that should be supported. These include:

- Enhancements to the town centre retail offer, including improvements to the Markets Complex
- Further heritage-led regeneration on the High Street
- A cinema, which in turn will attract secondary restaurant, shop and bar developments
- Improvements to the Transport Interchange, to address current condition and public safety issues
- Development of key strategic sites, including Forge Island, Westgate, Sheffield Road and the town's waterside
- An increase in the number of residential properties in the town centre

A draft version of the new Capital Strategy states: "The Council is developing a town centre master plan, which will determine which town centre projects will be brought forward as a strategic priority. However, the Council has already identified a number of key themes for the redevelopment and regeneration of the town centre, which will inform the master plan and our ambition for this.

"The Council is also working closely with the Sheffield City Region to identify funding for our town centre master plan projects. In addition, we will work closely with the private sector to identify development opportunities and will provide gap funding where sensible to do so."

It is expected that, to secure a cinema, a reverse premium would need to be provided as operators say that a cinema in Rotherham town centre would not be financially viable. The latest plan adds that a cinema "would bring a sea change to how the town centre is viewed."
Also discussed are proposals for a £12m university campus on land owned by the Council at Doncaster Gate. Rotherham College is aiming to be open for the 2017/18 academic year with a potential 44,000 sq ft higher education campus - enough space to eventually house 1,000 students. The college is bidding to secure £4m from the Sheffield city region skills capital fund and has approached the Council for a £6m loan.

£5m Council loans were offered to RCAT and Rotherham United for previous high profile regeneration projects. £1.38m was made available for the heritage-led redvelopment of the Three Cranes and Georgian town house on the High Street.

The Council is hoping to make use of new flexibilities to enable capital receipts from the sale of property to be invested in new capital projects, and continue to make use of its prudential borrowing powers.

Out of the town centre, capital projects focused on the economy include a £45m plan to widen the Parkway to three lanes between the M1 and Catcliffe and renewed proposals for a £10.5m Waverley Link Road, both designed to improve access to the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) and the £100m Waverley development. Funding is being sought from the city region and the Government.

A £5m development fund is also set to be established, building on the successful forward-funding by the Council that enabled the development of new industrial units on the AMP. It would provide a fund to "pump prime" capital developments, which can be shown to deliver jobs and business rates to the Borough. Awards would be loans or purchases with a quick sell on, or a guaranteed income stream; so the fund will be revolving.

Schemes being considered, but are not ready to be brought forward for approval, include: a new £15m Mainline Railway Station at Parkgate; the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID); the Todwick North Development Site; and a fifth RiDO incubation centre.

The strategy also covers investments in schools, roads and housing and totals £279.095m for the period 2016/17 to 2020/21. It will require prudential borrowing of £53.602m.

Rotherham Council website

Images: RMBC

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