Monday, March 7, 2016

News: Cinema given top billing in Rotherham masterplan

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Bringing a cinema and leisure development to Forge Island is the first key move in the draft updated masterplan for Rotherham town centre, published this week.

Drawn up by planning consultants at ARUP, the draft sets out a broad vision for the town centre, based firmly on the origins of the town, updating the work done as part of the Rotherham Renaissance programme in 2005.

It highlights development opportunities in different parts of the town centre and key sites for change including Forge Island, the Transport Interchange, and the Markets.

"Forge Island will become a major new piece of the Town Centre, with a strong leisure and residential focus," the document states. "Forge Island will be a new mixed-use leisure hub. Proposals should seek to incorporate a mix of residential units and leisure developments (including A3/A4/D2 uses [restaurants, pubs, leisure]), to help create a new and vibrant Leisure Quarter in the centre of Rotherham that complements the existing Retail Quarter.

"New linkages should be created across the river, to provide movement routes on an east-west and north-south axis, intersecting at a new public square."

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Rothbiz reported last week that a Council decision on the future of Forge Island is set to be made next month. Utilising the riverfront location, a proposed leisure cluster, anchored by a multiplex cinema, is set to improve linkages to rest of the town and the revamped train station, as well as kickstart regeneration on nearby sites at Weirside and Corporation Street.

The masterplan adds: "Market analysis suggests that there may be an appetite amongst cinema operators to locate within Rotherham as part of a wider leisure scheme. Support will therefore be given to locating a cinema on Forge Island as the anchor in a wider leisure scheme, most likely comprising A3/A4 [restaurant and cafes / drinking establishments] units."

Retail use on the site would be restricted and developments would need the "highest quality design" alongside public realm improvements to make the best use of the 3.4 hectare site which "provides a focal point where the two characters of the industrial river corridor and town converge."

The town centre has seen a number of changes in terms of retail with the decline in the sector, the £40m move across town by Tesco and the bid to revitalise the town by supporting niche, independent retailers. The plan adds that as areas such as Forge Island and Corporation Street are suffering from reduced footfall, "there are opportunities to increase activity and movement in the Town Centre by introducing a critical mass of leisure uses that will encourage people to visit the town and help grow the night time economy. For instance, these may include a cinema, bars, restaurants, hotels and health and fitness centres."

No timescales are given but development on Forge Island "should be advanced at the earliest possible stage." It is expected that the scheme would come forward incrementally over a number of years.

Rotherham Council has recently signed off a draft capital investment strategy which includes £17m to support schemes in the town centre. The masterplan examines some innovative sources of funding including borrowing against future business rates and precepts on council tax or business rates.

Rothbiz looks at other "key moves" highlighted as ways to regenerate Rotherham town centre which include more residential units, redeveloping other key sites, creating pedestrian "gold routes," and support for "Making and Trading" in the Town Centre.

Images: ARUP / RMBC

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