Wednesday, December 13, 2017

News: £12m bus station revamp approved

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The planning application for the long-awaited revamp of the bus station in Rotherham town centre has been approved but the owner of the adjacent shopping precinct is unhappy at the prospect of the interchange's closure whilst work is carried out.

Architects at Jefferson Sheard submitted the application earlier this year focused on refreshing the concourses with upgrades to flooring, plinths and glazing. The main pedestrian entrances are also set to be revamped.

Norseman Estates Limited, who are owners of the College Walk Shopping Centre which adjoins the bus station, has complained over the consultation done by the SYPTE and the impact of the temporary closure of the bus station.

Partners decided last year to focus on refurbishing the car park and bus station rather than a large scale redevelopment. Opened in 1971, the multi storey car park has since developed widespread defects. It is underutilised and "nearing the point of being beyond economic repair."

The bus station, which has associated public safety issues, suffered a fire in 2016 which caused significant damage.

Construction works to undertake the car park refurbishment scheme commenced on site in May 2017. The approved plans included internal improvements to increase usage and proposals for new highly durable anodised mesh panels to replace the poorly implemented current external cladding.

The latest plans, approved without the need to go to the planning board, include new finishes, fixtures and fittings to refresh the interchange, replacing failing components and improving the customer experience. This includes new glazed facades, replacing the existing floor surface in its entirety, new concourse and runway ceilings, replacing all of the current seating, new signage and a new, high quality and integrated customer service desk.

Led by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive (SYPTE), the tender process to procure a construction firm to carry out the work is underway with the deadline this week.

Work is anticipated to start in Spring 2018 and last for approximately 12 months.

Proposals are in place to fully close the interchange site to the public and the potential use of nearby Forge Island for a temporary bus station is being discussed.

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Legal firm Freeths, on behalf of Norseman Estates, said: "The importance of the operation of the bus station and its relation to the shopping centre and the wider town centre cannot be over emphasised in terms of the vitality and viability of the town.

"Although the development for which planning permission is sought in this application may be considered relatively small scale it never the less has the potential to have significant and serious implications if not properly managed as part of the overall refurbishment of the bus station."

A report from council planners responds with: "The applicant indicates that the car park construction works will be completed in parallel with this application to minimise the duration of the construction works on site and consequently minimise disruption to the ongoing town centre activities and retail offers. However, the applicant has confirmed that the construction of the new entrance lobbies can be completed without whole closure of the interchange. Localised temporary relocation of the bus stands immediately adjacent to each entrance may be required at most.

"The issues raised by the objector are noted and the potentially uncertainty of the business owners within the College Walk Shopping Precinct to the south of the interchange are understood. However, the issue raised by the objector in respect of there being no proper consultation with the businesses and the applicant is not a material planning consideration and this issue, together with the fact the bus interchange will need to close to carry out the wider redevelopment of the site is one that should be discussed between the applicant and the businesses outside of this planning application as it is legal / civil issue.

"It is noted that the closure of the bus interchange may impact on town centre, however there have been months of discussions between the applicant and other Council departments to ensure any disruption is minimal and does not significantly impact on the town centre. Again this is not material to this application and is for discussions outside of planning."

In 1995 Norseman Holdings bought the whole site from Rotherham Council, re-developing it with a shopping mall at the main entrance and new shops fronting onto Effingham Street. To facilitate the wider proposals, SYPTE agreed to take a 99 year lease of the Interchange site.

The owners also asked for a decision on the application to be deferred pending further negotiations to keep the bus station open during the works.

Council planners conclude that a condition is not considered necessary in this instance given the small scale nature of the proposed works, which in isolation, if approved would not require the bus interchange to close.

The report adds: "It is noted that during the construction phase of the wider development there may be a short term impact on the economic and social dimensions due to pedestrians not walking directly past the businesses from the Interchange, but these business can be accessed directly off Frederick Street.

"Furthermore, once this construction period has finished, the wider development is likely to provide significant economic and environmental enhancements to the town centre and its businesses."

SYPTE website

Images: SYPTE / Norseman / Jefferson Sheard

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