Tuesday, January 16, 2018

News: Westgate Chambers redevelopment given planning OK

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Plans for the long-awaited revamp of a prominent building in Rotherham town centre have been approved and developers are hoping to attract new restaurants, entertainment and leisure facilities to the £10m scheme.

Rothbiz reported last week that the planning application for the 0.275 hectare property, which includes a Grade II Listed Building, was being recommended for approval.

The planning board at Rotherham Council approved the plans, despite a number of concerns and objections over the impact on the conservation area, the loss of a historic building and the relationship between residential and leisure uses.

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."

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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.

The existing courtyard entrance will be moved to the bottom of the street, which will potentially allow the Council to pedestrianise Domine Lane as detailed in the Town Centre Masterplan.

The site, close to the important regeneration site of Forge Island, was bought by the Council in 2006.

Cllr Denise Lelliott, Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy at Rotherham Council, said: "One of the Council's key priorities is to help local people and businesses benefit from a growing economy, with a thriving town centre and more people living, working and spending their leisure time here.

"We are already seeing new developments in the town centre – including housing developments on Ship Hill and High Street, a new bar within Westgate Chambers, and restaurant close by – and these developments reflect the growing confidence investors have with our town centre regeneration plans."

Peter Hill, director of HMP Bespoke Construction Ltd, added: "These are exciting times ahead for all concerned with this prestigious scheme. We now look forward to it moving forward with the additional regeneration of Rotherham town centre, bringing in new restaurants, entertainment and leisure facilities to help new residents to live, work, rest and play within the town centre and most important of all creating new town centre jobs."

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Concerns were raised over the firm's 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.

The planning board heard 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 demolition would make the scheme viable and the prospect of the refurbishment and reuse of the listed building on the corner of Main Street and Westgate was considered justification for the proposals.

Historic England objected to the plans but the Council considers that the loss of the buildings would lead to less than substantial harm to the Town Centre Conservation Area.
Speaking at the planning board meeting, Mark McGrail, the owner of the adjacent 1915 Bar, raised concerns over the problems with approving residential use next to late night licensed venues.

McGrail said: "The scheme itself is fantastic. It looks brilliant. My only objection is the pulling of the Victorian building and the design.

"We are licensed to 4am in the morning and privacy wise and noise wise you are guaranteed that, on the first day of that opening, it's going to be a non-stop environmental nightmare. I wouldn't want to live there. I'm proud of the club but I wouldn't want to be woken up at two o'clock in the morning because of people coming out."

Having renovated the former pub close to the town's old Post office, and well underway with converting the historic George Wright Building into a boutique hotel and bar, McGrail added that he could have easily led on a renovation of the Victorian building on Domine Lane without the need to knock it down.

Council planners conclude that the proposed building would not impinge of the privacy of the patrons of the 1915 Bar. 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 by the developer.

Images: HMP Bespoke Construction / Self Architects

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