Tuesday, October 11, 2016

News: Commissioner approval for Forge Island bid

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Rotherham Council's bid to acquire Forge Island - the key site in the continued regeneration of Rotherham town centre - has been approved by Commissioner Julie Kenny.

Rothbiz reported first that the authority was preparing a bid to buy the 4.23 acre site that was previously the Rotherham Forge & Rolling Mills.

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.

At this week's Cabinet and Commissioners' Decision Making Meeting, Commissioner Kenny approved the strategic acquisition, enabling council bosses to negotiate terms with the vendors. Commercial property agents, Savills listed the Forge Island site in July with Tesco inviting offers from interested parties to purchase the site.

Discussing the deal, Cllr. Denise Lelliott, cabinet member for jobs and the local economy at Rotherham Council, said: "As many people will be aware, there has been ongoing negotiations with Tesco. Forge Island is a key strategic site within our SPD [Supplementary Planning Document] which will give us more control over what's happening in Rotherham and part of the wider regeneration. The acquisition of this site will ensure that we get what we need in Rotherham and support our regeneration and future developments."

Cllr. Roche supported the proposals, stating: "As a council I think we can be pleased with the work we've done on Rotherham High Street as one of the first steps forward and I fully endorse this report. Rotherham town centre, that area there [Forge Island], is a bit of an eyesore but this would really give us an opportunity to make that site dynamic, vibrant, and draw people in to the town centre at weekends and in the evenings."

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Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, concluded: "This is the next important step in our regeneration plans. Discussions about Forge Island and Tesco goes back about as far as I can remember so it's good that we are finally able to make some progress on this and hopefully build something much better - a much more attractive part of the town centre."

Funding for the acquisition and subsequent demolition of the store is set to be drawn from the town centre allocation in the Council's capital programme and a bid is set to be submitted to Sheffield City Region to seek Growth Fund money.

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. The pot includes provisional sums for the purchase of Forge Island and a "reverse premium" to incentivise a developer or end user to deliver a leisure scheme.

Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but it is known that the Council had an 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. Demolition costs are an estimated £251,000 and consultants at Jacobs identified in a 2013 study that around £6m would need to be spent to deal with flooding and ground issues on the site.

With commissioner approval, council officers hope to exchange contracts this month, allowing for the sale to take place and demolition work to begin by the end of 2016.

A detailed development proposal and a delivery and implementation plan for the site will be prepared in tandem with the town centre masterplan which is due to be completed in Spring 2017.

To assist in the redevelopment of Forge Island, the Council is also in discussions to carry out strategic acquisitions of surrounding properties. This includes the non council-owned retail properties forming part of Riverside Precinct between Forge Island and Corporation Street.

The image shows plans drawn up during "soft marketing" of the site in 2012.

Images: RMBC / DLA Architecture


4 comments:

Anonymous,  October 11, 2016 at 9:22 PM  

That was a really wise decision and people are looking forward to the development of a cinema and shopping complex with more restaurants and eateries.

Anonymous,  October 12, 2016 at 11:48 AM  

A cinema is eagerly awaited and needed, should also help the nightlife improve

Mr me October 12, 2016 at 2:39 PM  

Lets hope that its a eye catching development,something with a bit of height multi storey .

Anonymous,  October 14, 2016 at 7:40 PM  

Don't hold your breath it won't happen anytime soon this is Rotherham after all !

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