Thursday, April 5, 2018

News: £6m Rotherham reservoir plans passed

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Plans for a new reservoir to supply over 20,000 properties and Rotherham Hospital have been approved by Rotherham Council's planning board.

The planning approval is set to trigger a controversial land swap deal between the authority and Yorkshire Water.

The Council's Cabinet and Commissioners approved a deal in 2016 to transfer 95,000 sq ft of land inside Boston Park to Yorkshire Water so that it can replace two existing reservoirs which are coming to the end of their asset life.

Boston Park is Rotherham's oldest public park, opening on the centenary of the Declaration of American Independence on 4th July 1876. At its centre is Boston Castle, a shooting lodge built in 1775 by the Earl of Effingham. The castle was restored with Heritage Lottery funding and opened as a visitor heritage attraction in 2012.

The park is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by English Heritage for its special historic interest.

The plans involve building a new reservoir on an area of Boston Park next to the current reservoirs. The existing reservoirs would then become redundant, and Yorkshire Water would no longer require the land where they stand. Around 113,000 sq ft of land would be passed to the Council.

The Council's Planning Service advised Yorkshire Water in 2015 that they would have major concerns about loss of green space. The released land is considered to be less useful as recreational green space due to its relative remoteness from the Castle, car park and other main features of the park.

Yorkshire Water said that it would be willing to make a capital contribution towards the cost of selected improvements as part of a land exchange.

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The applicant concluded: "The majority of Boston Park will not be affected by the proposal, with the functional open parkland character of the area retained as a result of the land of the existing service reservoirs being returned to public parkland. This character contributes to the significance of the Grade II registered park and garden.

"In the same way, through retention of the historic design function of the upper level, within which the proposed development is located, there will be no impact to the setting of Boston Castle, a Grade II listed building, and therefore no effect on its heritage significance."

At the planning board, members voted five votes for and five against which meant that the chairman, Cllr. Alan Atkin, had the casting vote and the plans were approved.

Yorkshire Water had to prove that the Boston Park option was the best and various other options, such as creating a reservoir at Oakwood High School, were discounted.

Issues such as access, traffic and the loss of higher quality park land were also discussed. A number of objections to the plans had been received.

On the insistence of Sport England, the applicant has also been charged with paying £30,000 for a new Council playing pitch strategy as they were unable to adequately show what impact the development would have on access to sports facilities.

In 1873, John Guest, local historian and alderman, and a number of inhabitants of the town promoted the idea of developing the quarry overlooking Canklow Woods, for use as a public park. The "Peoples Park", as it became known locally, was 20 acres with about half of this plants and flowers.

The grounds were laid out with considerable artistic taste. This included wooden benches, placed along a series of meandering gravel footpaths, and a stone archway once part of the entrance to Rotherham College of Jesus, which was placed in the old quarry face near the bowling green.

The works are set to cost £6.1m with the money coming from Yorkshire Water and funding from regulator OFWAT which is set aside for new and existing water supply infrastructure. For the improvement works to the new park area, Yorkshire Water are intending to provide a financial contribution of approximately £160,000 as part of the land exchange deal.

Yorkshire Water website

Images: RMBC

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