Wednesday, April 20, 2016

News: Consultation begins on town centre masterplan

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Consultation has begun on the plans that set out a vision and a series of development projects and initiatives that would transform Rotherham town centre.

Rothbiz reported first on the town centre masterplan last month which identified eight "key moves" to continue the regeneration of Rotherham town centre.

The first key move is the development of a leisure hub on Forge Island, others focus on further residential development, supporting "Making and Trading," redeveloping the bus station, improving gateways and pedestrian movement, opening up the riverside for development and creating a connected "Green Network."

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The 2005 masterplan has been refreshed by consultants, ARUP, setting the strategy for investment in key central sites that allows the Council to examine progress made, and prepare a new Supplementary Planning Document which will underpin future development for the town centre.

The draft Supplementary Planning Document is now out for consultation until May 16. Once finalised it will provide additional guidance to a number of Local Plan policies which can be taken into account when determining planning applications.

As the first draft was being developed, a workshop was held attended by council officers, commercial property agents and town centre businesses. Consultation documents show that bringing a cinema and leisure development to Forge Island is seen as a key intervention to kickstart regeneration in the town.

The plans state: "Forge Island was viewed as the key lynchpin and development opportunity that could have a catalytic effect around which further schemes could come forward. Participants felt that a mixed use development would be most appropriate and this would lead to greater vibrancy. Achieving a critical mass of development on Forge Island was considered crucial to the success of any future scheme."

At the workshop, a commercial property agent noted that based upon his discussions with leisure operators there may well be an opportunity to create a leisure hub, however for this to be viable it would require a number of complementary uses on the same site, such as a cinema, family dining, hotel and gym. Demand from a hotel operator may exist, however "this would only be on the basis of being part of a wider scheme with other uses that would provide the necessary critical mass."

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The reports also reveal that a footfall mapping exercise undertaken by Arup showed that the retail core of the town has shrunk. The priority is expected to be given to protecting those retailers that remain. "Participants felt that Rotherham cannot afford to have any more high profile retailers leaving the town, especially not from key anchors like Primark or Wilkinsons."

Another challenge to development was seen as land ownership, especially on the Interchange site which is owned by Norseman with a long lease to SYPTE.

One opportunity identified is taking advantage of the proposed higher education campus on Doncaster Gate that is planned to accommodate up to 1,000 degree students, offering opportunities for broader development including student residential accommodation, as well as increased footfall in the town centre.

Connectivity was also discussed with a need identified to improve poor linkages to key attractions on the edge of the town centre such as New York Stadium and Clifton Park.

Documents can be viewed and comments can be submitted online

Images: ARUP / RMBC

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