Monday, February 27, 2017

News: Council's £1 court deal

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Rotherham Council is finalising another strategic acquisition to support the regeneration of Rotherham town centre by taking on the former Magistrates' Court building.

Home of the Magistrates' Court, County Court and Family Court, the building was vacated in September 2016 and the Council has been trying to acquire the site to support the potential redevelopment of the key Forge Island site.

A request that the property be transferred back to Council ownership in the spirit of One Public Estate (a Government commitment to release the value of public sector assets) and on the basis of its original transfer, was initially rejected last year.

However, in February, Government agencies notified the Council that it had reconsidered the position and that it would be willing to transfer the ownership of the building to the Council, at a £1 consideration, so long as the transfer completes by the March 31 2017.

The Government took the decision to close the courts after consulting on modernisation plans which aim to reduce the £500m annual cost of the courts estate as the justice system moves towards one "that must be accessible through online services as well as traditional court buildings."

86 of the original 91 courts identified were earmarked for closure. The Rotherham building by the canal and Police Station on Main Street, provided 62,785 sq ft of floorspace over four floors but was dubbed "poor quality" and work was transferred to Sheffield.

At the end of 2016, Damien Wilson, Strategic Director of Regeneration & Environment at Rotherham Council, explained that the authority was progressing plans to acquire the connected land at the courts, and Riverside Precinct, alongside Forge Island from Tesco, to increase the amount of land available and increase the development potential.

The Forge Island deal is done and bosses hope that work on a new £43m leisure hub, anchored by a new seven screen cinema and 80 bed hotel, will begin next year.

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A report to councillors and commissioners points to the court buildings, only opened in 1994, being demolished and the 1.34 acres (0.54 hectares) site used for "several alternative, complementary activities" to the Forge Island redevelopment.

A cleared site could be worth an estimated £500,000.

The report states: "It is helpful and timely that the opportunity to acquire this important site has come forward, as the Council's masterplan consultants are confirming their approach to the development of key sites. The consultants advise that including the Magistrates Court site within the Forge Island development will provide added benefit to the masterplan.

"At this stage the site could play a number of different roles through redevelopment and accommodate several alternative, complementary activities. Whilst not wishing to rule anything out at this stage, feedback from the masterplan consultants, who are working closely with officers, is that the site should be redeveloped for new buildings and uses and that a conversion of the existing building is not likely to be viable or desirable.

"The impact of a comprehensive redevelopment of this area will create a catalyst for further investment to introduce new jobs, businesses and housing into Rotherham town centre."

Commissioner Kenny is set to decide on the way forward next month.

A number of options are being considered, as are the financial implications and potential costs and values. One issue is that, due to the tight timescales, the Council will be unable to carry out the usual level of due diligence over legal issues and covenants before the deal is concluded.

Rotherham's supplementary planning documents states that: "Should the Law Courts and Police Station opt to relocate away from their present sites then it would be expected that there would be a strong residential component as part of any mixed-use scheme that would be developed here. Proposals should bear in mind the requirements of Sites and Policies Local Plan policy SP64 to safeguard community facilities, and also embrace the site's riverside location, opening up this movement route for pedestrians and cyclists."

The document adds that proposals for the Law Courts and Police Station site must first demonstrate that there is no demand for the sites as a community facility.

Through the One Public Estate strategy for the Sheffield city region, The Rotherham courts site has been highlighted for potential residential development as it could provide 120 units including 60 starter homes.

Images: Tom Austen


1 comments:

Jackie Frost,  February 27, 2017 at 8:16 PM  

This is ripe for conversion, surely doesn't need to be demolished!

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