Thursday, March 4, 2021

News: No deal: Rotherham's regeneration bid not on the list

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A Rotherham bid for millions to support the regeneration of the town centre is not on the latest list of successful "town deals" announced by the Government.

It is unclear if there will be any more rounds of the Town Deal Fund.

At the end of 2020, Rotherham Council and its partners on the Towns Deal Board had a draft bid with around £47.5m of projects for the Towns Fund Programme. Rothbiz detailed some of the aspects of the bid which focused on the town centre as well as Templeborough and Eastwood.

The borough's bid was not one of 45 Town Deals across England announced in the Budget 2021 this week.

The board had agreed to submit a Rotherham bid by the end of January 2021, in the final cohort. With seven towns securing deals in October, all but one of the latest 45 successful bids were submitted in 2020 - Morley's successful bid was submitted in January 2021.

The Towns Fund was heralded by the Government as a £3.6 billion pot in 2019. Now councils and city regions are being asked to compete for regeneration funding via the Levelling Up Fund and UK Community Renewal Fund.

The Government said last week that: "The Levelling Up Fund will supersede existing local growth funding streams, such as the Local Growth Fund, Pinch Points Fund, and future rounds of the Towns Fund."

In the prospectuses released with the budget, Rotherham is in the highest priority list and will receive some initial money to work on more bids.

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Bids for Town Deal funds were invited of up to £25m, or up £50m in special circumstances. The focus of Rotherham's investment was on increased economic growth through regeneration, improved transport, better broadband connectivity, skills and culture.

Projects being looked at in the bid included the redevelopment of the remaining Guest & Chrimes site, investment around a potential Mainline Station, redeveloping the site of the Sorting Office and a focus on Corporation Street.

A review of the process of how the Government selected the 101 areas to be invited for Town Deal funding was carried out by the National Audit Office as the Government did not publish the basis on which they selected the towns. It showed that Rotherham was a "high priority" area and ranked seventh highest in the total score given by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government across seven assessment criteria that were intended to capture each town's level of need and growth potential.

A report by the Public Accounts Committee went further and said that it was "not convinced by the rationales for selecting some towns and not others", finding the justification offered by ministers for selecting individual towns to be "vague and based on sweeping assumptions" and raised concerns over the decisions being politically motivated.

Rotherham did receive a £1m grant as part of the Government's Town Deal Accelerator which aimed to bring forward relevant projects ahead of the main Town Deal. Using the money, the authority has acquired the former Primark unit and is demolition the vacant building to create a pocket park before potential using it for new town centre housing.

Last year, Rotherham Council was also partially successful in securing Government money via the Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) but the £12.6m offer was less than the £18m bid. The Council is topping up the scheme from its own capital budget

The pot is set to be used for the redevelopment of Markets, the creation of high-quality Riverside Gardens linking the Forge Island redevelopment with the town centre, further public realm works, and the Grimm & Co redevelopment at Talbot Lane.

Images: Google Maps

2 comments:

Ziggy,  March 4, 2021 at 9:14 AM  

"Rotherham is in the highest priority list and will receive some initial money to work on more bids."

Brilliant more money to be squandered on unsuccessful bids. Its like one big cycle with public sector staff getting paid to think up stupid ideas.

Anonymous,  March 9, 2021 at 11:55 AM  

I think the whole purpose of these Town Deal funds is designed to stimulate economic growth and to create town centres which encourage people to live and work within them.

Having been given £1 million to start this process, RMBC promptly knocked down a key building on the High Street and replaced it with grassland. Call me cynical, but you can sort of see why they haven't been trusted with more money to do more of the same!

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