Friday, March 17, 2017

News: Eyesore buildings on Council radar

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"I might drive the bulldozer myself." That's the strength of feeling of the Rotherham councillor responsible for jobs and the economy on the two large burnt out buildings on Corporation Street in Rotherham town centre that the Council is trying to acquire.

On the key route through town, the former Envy nightclub building, which suffered a malicious fire in 2007, and Muskaan restaurant, which was closed after a fire in 2011, have been left empty ever since, and whilst not structurally unsafe, the buildings are widely acknowledged to be an eyesore.

Responding to a question at a recent council meeting, Cllr. Denise Lelliott, cabinet member for jobs and the local economy, said: "In terms of the properties on Corporation Street, there's nobody that feels the people of Rotherham's pain more than me. They are an absolute nightmare when you come in [to town].

"Unfortunately you are very limited on what you can do if a property is deemed safe - and we've had it inspected and it is deemed safe. There's nothing you can do unless you have a plan for that building and you can put a CPO (compulsory purchase order) into process.

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"In the last 18 months we have sent numerous letters, in fact we sent one last week, to the registered address and last known address of the owners, and we are in negotiations regarding some other things. To enable you to purchase a property under CPO, you've got to have a plan for that property and we are doing our masterplan for the town centre. Once the masterplan is launched and we have a key site and identification for that property then we can start the CPO process.

"It seems like you are copping out but they are national government guidelines, you can't just go around and buy any building you want. With the purchase of Forge Island, the launch of the masterplan and the site identified, we can then, finally, knock them buildings down on Corporation Street and I might even drive the bulldozer myself."

The Council is also progressing the acquisition of Riverside Precinct on Corporation Street where it already owns a number of strategic sites. The authority is also in discussions to acquire the empty Magistrate's Court buildings on the opposite of the river for £1.

Currently home to an empty Tesco store, 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.
Cllr. Lelliott added: "Properties that we don't own, we have very little control over. We've had very aspirational plans in the past, like Rotherham Renaissance, but we never got anything to underpin it. We are talking with developers all the time in forming this masterplan. We are looking at what we can do with key sites in the town centre. It would be difficult with buildings like the [Grade II listed] Guest & Chrimes, but we are looking at it.

"If you look at what we have done - New York Stadium was a derelict site and now we have a wonderful building there. And we are getting a new HE campus on the old hospital site (pictured).

"We have got developers that are looking to come in here. We've just got the Law Courts, we've got Forge Island and there's £17m set on one side so when the plan is complete we can go out and get things done."

Last month, Tim O'Connell, business investment manager at RiDO, the regeneration arm of Rotherham Council, told councillors that the focus of regeneration in the town centre has to be about delivering large scale changes.

Images: Google Maps


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