Friday, October 7, 2016

News: Discussions continue over reuse of Tata Steel's R&D site

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Discussions are ongoing between Tata Steel and Rotherham Council over the future use of the Swinden Technology Centre (STC) site.

The STC mainly focuses on product research and applications research for the transport, building and construction sectors but Tata considers that it is no longer a suitable home for the R&D arm and announced in 2014 that it is relocating research to Warwick University.

United Steels acquired the site in 1946 and in addition to research laboratories, it also includes Swinden House, the former home of Rotherham solicitor Thomas Badger, plus playing fields, tennis courts and orchards. The Grade II listed building, previously known as "Red House" was completed in around 1880.

With Tata Steel's intention to leave the site, pre-application discussions with the Council have been taking place as the authority works on finalising its local plan - Rotherham's planning blueprint for the next 15 years.

The Indian-owned steelmaker responded to final draft of the sites and policies document with property consultants, Harris Lamb, on behalf of Tata Steel, objecting to the 0.55 hectare site being put forward to continue as business use and instead supports residential development on the land off Moorgate.

The Council submitted the document to the Secretary of State earlier this year and a planning inspector is due in the borough to assess the work later this month.

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Further representations have been made which show that the Council has worked on a Statement of Common Ground with Harris Lamb and Tata Steel regarding the site, setting out what the parties agree on as the site comes forward for development.

Historic England has also been involved in the process to take account of the designated and non-designated heritage assets on this site.

A consultation response on the inspection of the local plan on behalf of Tata Steel, states: "The production of the planning application is also underway. A number of pre-application meetings have been held with Planning, Highway, Conservation, Landscape, Open Space and Housing Officers. We expect that a planning application will be submitted later this year.

"The only matter we do not agree with in the Housing Supply document relates to the capacity of the site ... A more reasonable estimate is that this site could deliver 219 dwellings and this figure is included in the Statement of Common Ground."

Outline planning permission was secured in 2004 for residential development and the conversion of Swinden House with plans showing around 100 houses on land off Beaconsfield Road and around the Victorian building - around a half of the site. Earlier plans included demolishing the lab buildings and building 190 dwellings and converting Swinden House and the stable building into flats.

Plans were put in place in 2001 for Tata Steel (then known as Corus) to move its R&D facilities across the borough to the AMP but it never materialised. In 2005, the National Metals Technology Centre (NAMTEC) located onto the Swinden site and used the house as a conference venue. NAMTEC vacated in 2012, joining the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) and moving across Rotherham to the AMP.

The site is unlikely to be part of any deal for Tata Steel's other Rotherham assets which make up the Speciality Steel business that is currently up for sale.

Images: NAMTEC


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