Tuesday, January 9, 2018

News: £10m Westgate Chambers revamp set for approval

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Plans for the long-awaited revamp of a prominent building in Rotherham town centre are set for approval this week.

Rothbiz reported last year on plans by the new owners of Westgate Chambers to create an exciting courtyard residential development and vibrant retail, leisure, and hospitality space, in the heart of the conservation area in Rotherham town centre.

Set to go in front of the planning board at Rotherham Council this week, members are being recommended to approve the plans, despite a number of concerns and objections.

The 0.275 hectare property, which includes a Grade II Listed Building, is being sold off by Rotherham Council who acquired it in 2006. Sheffield-based HMP Bespoke Construction Ltd is leading on the latest scheme, which has an estimated gross development value of £10.7m and includes two interrelated developments.

For the existing building, the plan is for the addition of new shopfronts, in keeping with the heritage-led development of the nearby High Street, with three floors of contemporary apartments above.

A brand new building containing retail space and flats on Domine Lane is set to bring "high quality contemporary architecture, which will lift the street scene and continue the recent contemporary development."

61 apartments are set to be created with the basement and ground floors to contain the uses suitable for retail, drinking establishments and the first and second floors for residential.

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Concerns have been raised over the plans to demolish un-listed buildings on Domine Lane - a block of 1950s offices which is considered not be of special interest and a further block of "rather fine" Victorian commercial buildings.

A report to the planning board states that officers have been in discussions with the developer for a number of months to arrive at a scheme that is considered to be acceptable and of benefit to the town centre.

The report concludes that the demolition is acceptable as "it became clear that the financial cost of bringing the building back into a useable state structurally and then renovating it internally to bring it up to modern standards would be such a strain financially that it would further render the whole scheme unviable.

"The Council acknowledges Historic England's objections but considers that the loss of this building would lead to less than substantial harm to the Town Centre Conservation Area."

Justification comes from making the scheme viable and the prospect of the refurbishment and reuse of the listed building on the corner of Main Street and Westgate.

The financial viability issues of the scheme also mean that no affordable housing is set to be included but the plans are liable for the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
Objections have also been raised regarding the relationship between the new apartments and existing pubs and bars neighbouring the site.

Council planners conclude that the proposed building would not impinge of the privacy of the patrons of the 1915 Bar despite the bar's owner stating that the new development would put the business and livelihoods and 30 plus staff in jeopardy.

Mark McGrail added that: "If the development goes ahead we will have no option but to close our premises and offer it to an alternate business to the detriment of the area."

Additional studies submitted with the application make clear that noise from existing leisure venues should not be a problem provided that the suggested noise mitigation measures are put in place.

Images: HMP Bespoke Construction / Self Architects

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