Thursday, August 3, 2017

News: Council vows to support businesses as footfall declines

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Rotherham Council regeneration bosses have pledged to support existing businesses as they wait for the catalyst projects in the new masterplan to revive the town centre.

It comes after the Council's own figures show that footfall has declined over the past year meaning that the authority's target has been missed by 1.8 million, described as "slightly below target."

Rotherham Council's Corporate Plan sets out the priorities for serving local residents and communities. It includes a target based on the aggregate pedestrian footfall in the town centre over the course of the year.

The target was to exceed 23,699,399 but another decline in the last quarter of the year has meant that the total aggregate pedestrian footfall in the town centre for 2016/17 is 21,851,449.

The first quarter of 2016/17 - between April and June 2016 saw an aggregate footfall of 5,641,296. The quarterly figure peaked in the summer months of July and September 2016 with 5,898,148. This declined to 5,492,033 for the Christmas trading period between October and December 2016. The lowest quarterly figure was recorded between January and Mar 2017 - 4,808,955.

A report to the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board of the Council, said: "The actual figures for 2016/17 are slightly below target which reflects the national picture, which has seen a six-month consecutive decline. As the town centre masterplan is nearing completion, it is anticipated the developments will reverse the recent decline in footfall."

Amendments have been made on how the footfall is recorded, given the change in how the town centre is used following Tesco's move across town at the end of 2014. Cameras that record the figures have been moved so that data collected from now on will be more consistent.

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A number of retailers have recently vacated units in Rotherham town centre including New Look and Thorntons. Primark is moving from the High Street into 33,100 sq ft of retail space at nearby Parkgate Shopping.

The report added: "The recently announced move of Primark to Parkgate will have an impact on footfall on High Street and the wider town centre. The closure is scheduled for the last quarter of 2017 and Council officers are seeking a meeting with Primark to discuss plans for the store, which is owned by Primark."

The recently published masterplan places a greater emphasis on town centre living and leisure, as opposed to traditional retail uses, in continuing the regeneration of Rotherham town centre. It is set for approval by the Council's cabinet in September when the authority expects to head to the market for the regeneration of the Forge Island site. The plan here is for a £43m leisure development anchored by a cinema and hotel.
Cllr. Denise Lelliott, Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy at Rotherham Council, said: "Obviously footfall has been a concern and I hold regular meetings with businesses and I work really, really closely with them.

"We have set up an officer task group to look at some of the issues that have been raised around footfall. Some of the things that have been fed back are around anti-social behaviour, and hopefully we will have a Public Space Protection Order to enforce that, reassuring members of the public that it is safe.

"It is difficult but if you look at Forge Island, the bridge has been opened up and it is starting to look better, but unfortunately it is going to be September when the masterplan goes to Cabinet and after that is getting the delivery partner to come in and do it. But in that time we can assure people that we are working closely to ensure that businesses are supported as best we can."

Damien Wilson, strategic director for Regeneration and Environment at Rotherham Council, added: "The masterplan won't take place overnight. As far as the ongoing support, Cllr. Lelliott has certainly been vocal in leading that with the Business Growth Board and the town centre team to ensure that existing businesses get that ongoing support to prevent any further closures that obviously add to the void levels. Any activities that we can undertake to support existing businesses is ongoing."

Rotherham town centre website

Images: RMBC


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