Friday, September 2, 2016

News: Rotherham Council back in for Forge Island

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Rotherham Council is preparing a bid to buy Forge Island, identified as the key site in the continued regeneration of Rotherham town centre.

Previously the Rotherham Forge & Rolling Mills, the 4.23 acre site is currently home to an empty supermarket and a car park following the relocation of Tesco across town in 2014. It was identified as a suitable site for development of a town centre leisure hub as detailed in a council-commissioned planning document which placed bringing a cinema and leisure development to Forge Island as the first "key move" in the town's renaissance.

It was advertised for sale earlier this year when it appeared that the Council had not taken up its option to buy the site for £1.5m when Tesco vacated and moved across town to the a £40m store on the site of former council buildings on Drummond Street.

A bid for the property is now being drawn up and a key decision on whether the Council should approve the bid is scheduled to be made in October. The decision would rest with commissioner Julie Kenny.

Rothbiz understands that the bid involves the acquisition of the Forge Island site and the demolition of the former Tesco store.

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A masterplan is currently being refreshed setting the strategy for investment in key town centre sites and the Council is set use its financial firepower to invest around £17m in key projects that have been agreed in principle as those that should be supported. These include a cinema, which in turn is expected to attract secondary restaurant, shop and bar developments.

ARUP's supplementary planning document states: "Forge Island will become a major new piece of the Town Centre, with a strong leisure and residential focus. 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."

The Council is also preparing a bid to buy further properties at the adjacent Riverside Precinct. The authority already owns a number of sites on Corporation Street, which has seen a decline in footfall and an increase in empty units since Tesco relocated.

The strategic acquisition of retail properties forming part of Riverside Precinct not already owned by RMBC would assist in the redevelopment of Forge Island.
In 2012, the Council's cabinet confirmed Forge Island as the preferred site for a town centre cinema and theatre development and developers and operators where sought. Rotherham town centre has been without a cinema for 25 years.

Last year, Rothbiz revealed that discussions were taking place with private sector developer, The Evans Property Group on a potential 200,000 sq ft office development on Forge Island. However, a bid was knocked back for £6m of pubic sector funding via the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership's investment fund for strategic infrastructure investment (SCRIF).

Current plans for Forge Island are thought to include a cinema-led leisure development with the potential for a residential element. Utilising the riverfront location, development 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.

Previous plans discussed by the Council outlined a mixed used development including 25,000 sq ft cinema and a 20,000 sq ft theatre and 10,000 sq ft of High Street style retail, 10,000 sq ft restaurant / café use and a 80 bed budget hotel. Such a development could create 200 jobs.

Images: RMBC / ARUP


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