Wednesday, December 6, 2023

News: B&Q bid for new Rotherham store


B&Q, the UK's leading home improvement and garden living retailer, could make a return to central Rotherham, if new plans are approved.

The retailer, part of the Kingfisher group, currently only operates at Cortonwood in the borough.

B&Q formerly occupied a 51,000 sq ft store at Northfields, Parkgate. It was purposely built to enable a move from the edge of the town centre in 2009 but it was vacated in June 2016 when B&Q cut back its UK store numbers.

Australian retail giant, Wesfarmers, opened and closed a Bunnings Warehouse in the unit in the space of five months before it returned to being a Homebase in 2018. The Trade Centre Group turned the site into a massive car showroom that opened in 2021.

Now the owners of the retail park at Great Eastern Way, also at Parkgate, are hoping to make space for B&Q by combining units together to create a new large store and garden centre.

The plans, from Rotherham Foundry RP Limited, involve Units 2 and 3, in addition to the existing rear service yard and a small area of car parking to the front of the units.

Unit 2 (at 9,880 sq ft) is currently occupied by Bensons for Beds and Unit 3 (9,930 sq ft) is currently vacant, having previously been occupied by Harveys Furniture prior to the company entering administration.

Agents, Montagu Evans, state: "This application proposes a series of external alterations to the elevations of Units 2 and 3, associated with the proposed amalgamation of the two retail units to create one new retail unit to be occupied by B&Q.

"The proposed works are minor in scale, and will result in the shopfront remaining in keeping with the design of the other shopfronts at the Retail Park. This application also proposes the creation of a garden centre within the existing rear service yard."

The application argues that the planning permission for the original scheme means that the units have an "open Class E use with no restrictions on the ability to amalgamate the floorspace" and that the extension for an outdoor garden centre is specifically to meet the requirements of incoming tenant B&Q and is sequentially preferable in planning terms.

Applicants conclude that creating a 20,010 sq ft store, with a 5,145 sq ft external garden centre for B&Q would: "result in the re-occupation of a vacant unit at the site, thereby bringing it back into an active economic use, generating a significant number of new employment positions.

"Further, it will bring a new national retailer to Rotherham, not currently represented in the town. The closest store to the site is currently over 10km away at Cortonwood Shopping Park in Brampton. The proposed development will therefore reduce journey times for residents, as well as improving the choice and competition in the DIY local market."

Kingfisher plc operates over 2,000 stores, including both B&Q and Screwfix in the UK. It reported an adjusted pre-tax profit of £758m for the year January 31 2023, compared with £949m in the previous year.

B&Q website

Images: B&Q / Google Maps


News: Wickersley pub and bar policy to continue


Rotherham Council's cabinet has approved the continuation of a policy that affects the number of new or varied alcohol licences being granted in the popular Wickersley area of the borough.

A statement of licensing policy was approved in 2020 as the council is responsible for licensing the sale of alcohol, hot food and various events. It included a Cumulative Impact Policy which detailed that an area of Wickersley village would become a Cumulative Impact Zone.

Policies are introduced if the authority considers that the number of licensed premises within a defined area is at such a level that the granting of further licences would be inconsistent with the promotion of the licensing objectives.

The zone covers Wickersley North, Thurcroft and Wickersley South and was introduced to combat "problems surrounding anti-social behaviour, low-level crime, public nuisance including noise and ambulance related alcohol call outs in a mainly residential area."

Following a review, cabinet members met recently to agree that the policy stays in place.

42 of the 47 responses relating to Wickersley were from local residents, all of whom stated that they had experienced noise disturbance and littering / dumping of rubbish in the last 12 months. All but two of the residents that responded indicated that they have experienced vandalism / criminal damage or antisocial behaviour in the last 12 months.

A council report adds: "Five Wickersley based businesses responded to the consultation, all of whom disagreed that the Cumulative Impact Assessment has had a positive impact on their business. However only two of those expressed the view that the Cumulative Impact Assessment has prevented them from carrying out their business activities / interests."

Sam Barstow, Assistant Director, Community Safety & Street Scene, at Rotherham Council said: "In 2020 The council considered that the number and type of premises in the Wickersley area were having a detrimental on the lives of local residents, and particularly on the licence holders to meet the licencing objectives - particularly around crime and disorder and public nuisance.

"We have used the consultation to assess whether the zone in Wickerlsey is still justified, but also to see if any other areas of Rotherham would benefit from a similar zone.

"The review has concluded that the Wickersley zone should be retained but we have not identified any evidence at this stage to justify any zones elsewhere across the borough."

The Council was keen to make clear that the policy does not create a ban on the grant of licenses within Wickersley but an applicant "must be able to demonstrate to the Council and other responsible authorities that granting a new or varied licence will not add to the cumulative impact already being experienced within the area."

Since the policy's introduction, FIKA Coffee Lounge successfully secured a licence for the sale by retail of alcohol and over the road, The Garrison restaurant secured planning permission in 2021 to operate as a drinking establishment, despite objections.

In 2022, Rothbiz reported that operators of Seasons restaurant, who are also the owners of The Courtyard next door, wanted to vary its premises licence. Earlier this year, The Yard applied for planning permission so that it can continue to open later.

Images: Google Maps


News: Architects welcome approval for vital community hub for Waverley residents


The award-winning team at Sheffield’s CODA Architecture have welcomed Rotherham Council’s approval for the long-awaited retail development at Waverley.

CODA’s design for Olive Lane - on behalf of Harworth Group plc - which will create a high-quality retail, leisure and community development centred around a pedestrianised high street.

It will include a series of high-quality public realm spaces and gateways designed by PWP Design which will tie in with the wider Waverley development strategy.

And as well as providing a community focus and much-needed facilities, it will also provide a vital link between the growing Waverley residential site near Catcliffe and the neighbouring Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).

The Olive Lane application, showing a much reduced scheme compared to previous iterations, was approved last month,

Matt Bowker, director at CODA, said: “Following several years of design development and two planning applications we are happy to confirm that planning has been approved for a mixed used high street located in Waverley.

“Our clients Harworth Group plc set out to deliver further amenities and public realm for the residents of Waverley with the ambitious vision of Olive Lane.

“We are very proud to have been able to play our part in designing the scheme alongside an amazing consultant team.

“Olive Lane is delivering retail, commercial and a medical centre to the local neighbourhood all within 15 minutes of the Waverley residents’ homes and in addition, there will also be 50 new houses directly adjacent to the high street.

"At CODA we love working on projects that create beautiful homes and sustainable neighbourhoods and this certainly feels like one of those special projects.

“We can’t wait to get started on site with Harworth and their development partners to begin delivering this important new phase for Waverley, one of the UK's biggest and best brownfield redevelopments.”

CODA's innovative designs can also be seen at the Sky-House developments at Waverley which uses a modern back-to-back housing concept.

CODA website

Images: CODA


Monday, December 4, 2023

News: New Magna stop is "a vindication of the Tram-Train trial"


A planning application has been submitted for a £6.65m project to introduce a new tram-train stop on the existing network with a new Park & Ride site in Rotherham.

The scheme is designed to provide a boost to the Magna Science Adventure Centre and the wider Templeborough area, as well as improve alternative travel options in an area known for low air quality. Network Rail say that the "new station at Magna is seen as a vindication of the Tram-Train trial" - the £100m+ pilot project which was first announced in 2009.

Extending the Sheffield Supertram network to Rotherham and Parkgate using the heavy rail line, the programme has been in place for five years and has demonstrated benefits from the lower infrastructure capital and maintenance costs compared to a heavy rail service; and the level of passenger demand and satisfaction it created, with over 2.3 million journeys. The new tram-train stop at Magna is seen as a logical enhancement of the network.

Backed by the Government's Transforming Cities Fund (TCF), South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) has been working with Network Rail on the business case for the new station.

Submitted two years after funding was confirmed, the plans from Network Rail explain: "The Tram-Train line runs to the rear of the site; therefore, an opportunity has been identified to build a new stop serving Magna and the wider area. This would improve connectivity and provide additional transport options for accessing Magna and the wider Templeborough / Sheffield Road area from both Sheffield and Rotherham.

"Alongside helping to provide growth to Magna and the local area, the new stop also supports Rotherham Council’s aspirations for increased investment in the regeneration of the wider Templeborough area and provide access to areas of opportunities from areas of need."

Rothbiz has reported on a number of new commercial schemes in the area, including a council-led scheme for new industrial and food units on land owned by Manga.The area is also included in the South Yorkshire Investment Zone.

Magna has plans to continue growing its events business (e.g. holding conferences etc.) and wants to develop a night-time economy (e.g. bands/concerts etc.). The site currently attracts around 160,000 non-school visitors per year, mostly in the school holidays. This comprises 80,000 attraction and 80,000 events visitors. Operators hope that recent investments in the visitor attraction will boost visitor numbers to 100,000 in 2023/24 and 120,000 in 2024/25.

At the same time, making use of the existing underutilised parking supply at Magna is seen as a cost-effective way of increasing Park & Ride facilities in the area. Plans add: "This will encourage drivers to park and then travel by Tram-Train. It is estimated that over 200,000 journeys annually would be made using the tram-train facility."

The application shows a station with two, 30m long platforms on land next to the car park at Magna, further down past the AquaTek outdoor play area. It is described as having basic facilities including a shelter, information boards, lighting, CCTV and cycle parking. A bridge, with lifts, and a fence running between the two tracks are also included.

The station will be accessed directly off the existing car park, which itself has direct access onto Bessemer Way.

The plans include the re-arrangement of existing car park spaces to increase capacity to 428 spaces from the existing 399 (which would include an additional number of disabled, motorcycle and electric charging spaces) available. Plans note that "the existing car park is currently operating at around 4% of capacity so there is ample room for the introduction of tram passenger parking on the site without detriment to the operation of the existing car park for Magna patrons."

A standard day in May 2022 saw only 14 of the car parking spaces used.

The application concludes: "The proposal for a new station at Magna is seen as a vindication of the Tram-Train trial and is seen as a key enhancement in improving the public transport system of the Rotherham area, enhancing journey opportunities between the Magna attraction, the town, and the wider Sheffield area. It makes an important contribution to the sustainable development of the tourist attraction and the wider town in aiding modal shift and reducing dependence on the private car, enhances economic prospects for job creation and helps to maintain the attractiveness of the Magna facility."

Magna website

Images: SYMCA / Network Rail / Google Maps


News: Rotherham library closure brought forward following discovery of RAAC


The Swinton library building in Rotherham has been closed for the foreseeable future after RAAC was discovered following inspections.

A long-awaited £8m regeneration revamp of Swinton includes a new library, but it is not yet complete.

Rotherham Council’s Asset Management Team has been reviewing the authority’s estate to check for the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). Should RAAC be found, actions are taken to ensure buildings remain safe to residents and staff.

In the case of Swinton Library, RAAC has been identified in the roof and therefore the building has been closed.

In the 1990s, several bodies recognised structural deficiencies in RAAC panels installed up until the mid-1990s. It was recognised that the in-service performance was poor with cracking, excessive displacements and durability all being raised as concerns.

Alternative arrangements have been put in place at the newly renovated Swinton Civic Hall, while the council conducts further surveys to see whether remedial work is appropriate.

A newly refurbished library is planned to be opened early next year at the former customer service centre building as part of a major redevelopment of Swinton town centre. This will mean the demolition of the current library off Station Street, with the area then landscaped.

Building work has already started on affordable new homes, upgraded community buildings and public spaces in Swinton Town Centre.

This includes building 49 new homes, the upgraded and improved Civic Hall, a green and the demolition of the current library. Under these ambitious plans the existing Council Customer Service Centre will house the new library.

Assistant Director Rob Mahon, who oversees the maintenance of all Rotherham Council owned buildings said: “The health and safety of our residents and staff is our priority, which is why we have temporarily closed Swinton Library as a precautionary measure.

“We made the decision to close the site as a precaution last week while further surveys are conducted, and potential mitigations investigated.

“This decision is supported by recent government guidance issued due to concerns where RAAC has been used in schools, prompting similar concerns around other public buildings including libraries. Our approach here is in step with similar approaches taken by other local authorities.”

Images: Google Maps

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