Wednesday, February 1, 2017

News: First of £43m for Forge Island finalised

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Rotherham Council has welcomed the approval of £1.5m from the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority (CA) to fund the purchase Forge Island - the key regeneration site in Rotherham town centre.

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.

The wider development incorporating Forge Island and adjacent sites could deliver a 25,000 sq ft cinema, 20,000 sq ft hotel and 6,000 sq ft of restaurants and bars.

£1.5m will be used to buy the land from Tesco. The monies will be provided as a bridging loan pending a future grant. It comes after the CA warned that over £27m of funding for projects that benefit the local area and economy could be going back to the Government if it is not spent by the end of March.

A bid for funding from Rotherham Council for its plans for a £43.5m project on Forge Island were amended. The value for money indicators for a £1.5m grant have not been met but the money is still being provided in the form of a bridging finance facility and was recommended until an alternative more suitable funding source becomes available.

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The upfront money is needed to acquire the site from Tesco, demolish the old supermarket and clear the site and enhance its attractiveness to a future developer.

Further phases of the project include £6.1m of council investment in works relating to site remediation, flood issues and infrastructure works such as bridge repairs.

Phase 3 involves the procurement of a development partner to drive forward the development of the site for leisure and culture in partnership with the Council – including two adjacent sites for residential development.

The Council is progressing the acquisition of Riverside Precinct and is in discussions to acquire the empty Magistrate's Court buildings. £2m has been approved from Council budgets for the acquisitions. Proactive communications with potential investors have also taken place.

Damien Wilson, strategic director of regeneration and environment at Rotherham Council, said: "Forge Island is a key development for the borough and central to restoring the town's night time economy. We are already seeing interest around this site with new restaurants opening, and plans submitted to the Council for further developments. We are looking forward to Forge Island becoming a vibrant leisure quarter to complement the existing retail quarter."

The Council hopes to agree a purchase with Tesco in February, with demolition of the current building to follow.

With the new town centre masterplan set to be unveiled in April, the Council has set aside £14.9m so far for town centre developments as part of its capital investment strategy. Potential projects include the development around Forge Island, improvements to the Transport Interchange, residential developments and the Higher Education Campus.

Images: Savills


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