Friday, August 14, 2020

News: Rotherham construction contract confirmed for Willmott Dixon

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National contractor Willmott Dixon has been appointed by Rotherham Council to deliver 171 homes with the award of a £31.5m contract.

The scheme is made up of three developments under the Council's Rother Living brand - one on the site of the former Henley's garage in Wellgate, another on Sheffield Road, and the final site on Westgate on the Millfold House site.

Work is already underway and the developments will feature a mix of houses and apartments for council housing, shared ownership, and affordable sale.

Rothbiz reported back last year that Willmott Dixon was the contractor partner as the authority progressed ambitious proposals for new town centre housing. Since January 2019, the Council has worked with the contractor to develop these schemes to construction stage, and previous contracts are now subsumed by this larger construction contract.

The Council signed off on the contract at the end of last month having been scrutinised its legal and finance departments and by external consultants.

Stuart Kerr, operations director at Willmott Dixon, said: "These three Rother Living schemes are hugely important projects for the town and Rotherham Council. The developments will make a difference to the local community by providing high-quality council housing and opportunities for residents to get on the housing ladder.

"We're excited to be working in partnership with Rotherham Council and their Rother Living brand. As an employer within the region and, having recently completed Rotherham's University Centre as part of the Rotherham Plan 2025, we are delighted to be playing a part in the council's continued investment in housing and the town centre. With 75% of the development reserved for affordable housing, these schemes will go a long way to support the council’s housing growth plans."

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The £13m site Westgate Riverside development in Sheffield Road consists of two apartment blocks containing 44 homes and 28 two and three-storey semi-detached and terraced houses. The Millfold House development (pictured, top), which is valued at £10m, will feature one apartment block consisting of 31 apartments and 14 back-to-back houses. The third development, on the site of the former Henley's garage on Wellgate, consists of two apartment blocks containing 34 homes and 20 two and three-storey terraced houses, with a value of £8.5m.

Willmott Dixon is already working across these sites. In Sheffield Road, full site set-up is already complete and work is on-going to transform the land, which includes the addition of flooding defenses. Work has also started at the Millfold House development with ground preparation work having commenced in mid-June.

The construction firm said that it would be actively supporting local social enterprises and SMEs, delivering initiatives to improve wellbeing and mental health in the community, supporting local projects, community groups and running initiatives aimed at reducing crime.

Councillor Dominic Beck, cabinet member for housing at Rotherham Council, said: "These are exciting developments that will deliver 171 new properties for local people, including 129 council homes and shared ownership dwellings. It will transform three disused former industrial sites and comes at a time when the Forge Island part of our Town Centre Masterplan starts to take shape.

"The developments include a variety of property types to suit people of different ages - including first-time buyers, key workers, families, and older downsizers. A lot of hard work has gone into putting these plans together and it's fantastic to see the Willmott Dixon team making a start on development, which will greatly contribute towards our ambitions for housing growth and town centre regeneration.

"Ultimately, these three developments are a significant step forward in our vision to improve Rotherham town centre, giving it a new sense of purpose with a stronger identity and thriving community, which local people can take pride in."

The developments, which have been designed by Bond Bryan Architects, are due for completion in 2022.

Rother Living website
Willmott Dixon website

Images: Bond Bryan / Willmott Dixon

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News: Wizz Air doubles down at DSA

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Wizz Air has chosen Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) as the location for a second base for Wizz Air UK, the group's UK-registered and based airline, alongside London Luton.

The move will create new routes and increase the annual capacity of the regional airport for the Sheffield city region (SCR), by 300,000 seats.

Currently London Luton's biggest airline, the Hungarian low-cost carrier is allocating one Airbus A320 aircraft to DSA, and will launch seven new routes to add to its existing network of ten routes.

Last year, Flybe, announced that the withdrawal of jet operations from Doncaster Sheffield.

Owain Jones, managing director of Wizz Air UK, said: "Throughout the recent challenges, we have seen a real resilience in the UK and at Doncaster Sheffield Airport in particular. This breakthrough plays an important role in our business planning and aspiration to make air travel affordable for everyone.

"We've been continuously driving down our costs to become the most efficient airline in Europe. Our fleet of latest-generation Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft make us the greenest airline in Europe and one Airbus A320 will take up residence at DSA from November. We currently see an underserved gap and DSA will play a key role in our plans for future growth."

Wizz Air has been working in partnership with Doncaster Sheffield Airport for over a decade becoming the airport's largest carrier with over 900,000 passengers ever year predominantly served with a selection of central Eastern European routes.

Seats are ow on sale to additional locations such as Alicante, Malaga, Larnaca, Faro, Lublin, Kosice, and Suceava.

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Chris Harcombe, director of aviation development at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, said: "We are delighted to bring more ultra-low fares to DSA, to these popular destinations loved by our customers and served by an airline who pride themselves on providing affordable travel, with an excellent reputation. It is a shared intention to bring further aircraft as part of this agreement within a matter of months.

"There is no doubt that the aviation sector faces its greatest challenge in modern day history at this time. It is essential that the UK Government acknowledges and supports airlines and airports that bring much needed investment into the UK economy. Doncaster Sheffield Airport contributes over £60 million to the Sheffield City Region and offers job security for thousands of people."

Robert Hough, chairman of Doncaster Sheffield Airport, added: "Our partnership with Wizz Air is incredibly special to our business. Both Wizz Air and Doncaster Sheffield Airport began their journeys' in the early 2000s as challenger brands with a shared desire to provide opportunity for the people of our respective markets through obtainable travel.

"Fast forward 15 years and Wizz Air is one of Europe’s most successful and well-established airlines and Doncaster Sheffield Airport as one of the UKs fastest growing airports – it's a true partnership that has gone from strength to strength."

"There is no doubt that the aviation sector faces its greatest challenge in modern day history at this time. It is essential that the UK Government acknowledges and supports airlines and airports that bring much needed investment into the UK economy. Doncaster Sheffield Airport contributes over £60 million to the Sheffield City Region and offers job security for thousands of people."

DSA website
Wizz Air website

Images: Wizz Air

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

News: Broadband boost for borough

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Two infrastructure firms have confirmed plans to improve fibre broadband in Rotherham, investing millions in the borough.

CityFibre is well underway to build a full fibre network that will reach almost every home and business in the town.

Meanwhile, Openreach has also outlined plans to make ultra-reliable and gigabit-capable full fibre broadband available to homes and businesses in further parts of the borough.

Rothbiz reported in 2019 that Rotherham was included in the second phase of rollouts extending CityFibre's Gigabit City programme.

The leading designer, builder, owner, and operator of fibre optic infrastructure in UK towns and cities provides an alternative to BT Openreach.

CityFibre has now confirmed a contractor for the £29m investment with Heneghan's starting work in the Kimberworth area.

The full fibre network is not yet live, but once activated, services will be available from an increasing range of broadband providers. Across the UK, CityFibre is already working with launch partner, Vodafone to deliver next generation broadband services, and TalkTalk is expected to join the network soon.

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Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "The CityFibre investment in Rotherham is a huge boost that supports our ambitions to develop a competitive and sustainable economy that builds on our strengths in advance manufacturing and innovation.

"Rotherham has so much going for it as a business location and having the full fibre network makes it the ideal place for any company to grow or locate. Having a full fibre gigabit capable infrastructure will meet the ever increasing digital demands of those living and working in Rotherham now and in the future."

Natalie Ward, city manager for Rotherham at CityFibre, added: "This is such an exciting time for people across Rotherham as work is now underway to build the Full Fibre broadband network which will digitally transform the town. Not only will this bring lightning fast speeds to both households and businesses, it will open up much deeper benefits such as enabling smart home technologies and giving people the freedom to work from home with ease.

"Our £29m investment also supports the innovative business community that helps drive the Rotherham economy. Through the adoption of next generation Full Fibre connectivity, more innovation and productivity will be driven, ultimately giving businesses the platform they need to realise their growth ambitions. Creating a level playing field for local businesses is vital as they seek to compete and sell internationally."

Targeting 3.2 million premises in the UK's hardest to reach "final third," Openreach has confirmed that market towns and villages are in for a full fibre boost - with exchanges in Wickersley and Thurcroft set to be upgraded.

Robert Thorburn, partnership director in the North of England at Openreach, said: "I'd encourage everyone to check if they can switch to the new technology, and if you can, get in touch with your broadband provider to find out more about the many benefits. "Full fibre" is more reliable and more resilient meaning fewer faults and more predictable, consistent speeds. It is also "future-proof" to easily meet the growing data demands of future technologies."

Last year, Superfast South Yorkshire (SFSY) completed a £27m contract to deliver faster broadband to residents and businesses across South Yorkshire.

City Fibre website
Openreach website

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News: Last week for COVID-19 support scheme

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Over 4,000 Rotherham businesses and charities have received more than £46m in financial support from Rotherham Council since the start of Covid-19 lockdown measures. But with the deadline to make a claim is now looming.

The money has been allocated through several Government-backed schemes which have been administered by the Council.

One of those schemes, the Discretionary Grant Fund, ended on the July 5 and now the Council has to bring the remaining schemes to a close by midnight on August 16 2020 as the Government funding comes to an end.

Schemes that will close this week are the Small Business Grants Fund and the Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Grants Fund.

Although around 90% of eligible businesses have now been paid the grants they are entitled to, a small number are yet to claim and are being urged to check their eligibility on the Council website to ensure they don't miss out.

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Subject to checks and eligibility, businesses in Rotherham have typically been receiving their grant payments within five days of making an application.

Cllr. Saghir Alam, cabinet member for corporate services & finance, said: "To validate and process payments worth over £46m to more than 4,000 businesses in just over four months – and in such difficult circumstances – has a been a huge logistical challenge for the Council, but I'm proud we've achieved it.

“These grants are vital to the wellbeing of our economy, protecting the jobs, businesses and livelihoods of thousands of local people. We want to squeeze every last pound out of the funds available to help Rotherham recover so we are urging those eligible businesses to apply before it's too late.

See the Council website for more information.

Images: Google Maps

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

News: Gala Tent breaks records as it adapts to the "new normal"

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Entrepreneurial management and the ability of the business to adapt quickly, has seen Rotherham-based Gala Tent rebuild and go on to process over £1m of orders in the month of July.

Founded in 1999, Gala Tent is one of the UK's leading producers of marquees, tents and gazebos.

Its marquees, that are usually the lifeblood of the hospitality and events industry, are now resurrected as pop-up coronavirus testing stations, social distancing queue shelters, entry and exit checkpoint tents, as well as providing garden shelter for homeowners and home workers. Pubs and hotels are snapping up commercial grade structures to increase capacities during the social distancing era.

The Manvers company is almost back to full strength, following the Prime Minister's recent easing of lockdown restrictions and a massive boom in marquee and gazebo sales.

Jason Mace, CEO at Gala Tent (pictured, left), said: "There were plenty of other firms and individuals in the same boat as us. Too successful for some financial concessions, not successful enough for others, and of course insurance covered very little so we had to remain open. We’ve always battled whatever came at us, though, and we've always won."

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The first month of lockdown was particularly brutal for Gala Tent. Jason, alongside co-owner and brother-in-law Mark Thompson, were forced to furlough a majority of our colleagues, retaining a small skeleton team and our bosses themselves were working shifts in the distribution centre for zero wage to ensure the business stayed alive.

Behind the scenes, the team working from home spent their time pivoting our strategies to reflect the current climate, and quietly set about improving the business operation to prepare for when life might return to normal.

Thompson said: "You do what you have to do to survive. We spent the early years of the company doing just that, working all hours for no wages, to build it up to what we are today. Nobody at Gala Tent is scared of a little hard work."

Using a restructured finance facility with HSBC UK, the company has been able to pivot the business.

In June, Gala received the biggest ever monthly web traffic to the site, but that was nothing compared to July. Only four months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson locked down the country in an effort to stem the flow of the coronavirus outbreak, Gala Tent staff processed £1.1m of orders. In the process, the firm posted a massive 34% growth versus last July, and had a further 25% increase in traffic to the website.

Another businesses under the Gala umbrella, Gala Graphics, has also seen a recent influx of demand for its printed services which includes the launch of a series of exclusive Social Distancing Floor Markers, Banners and Signs.

Meanwhile, Gala Technology, which specialises in customer not present payment solutions, has seen a major update in providing payments solutions for home workers along with some major partner deals.

Mace added: "It's amazing. It's a credit to my team that we were all able to pull together when things were at their most uncertain, and keep the ship steady. It’s important to have that confidence that if a crisis occurs and you find all roads closed off, you know you can head off road and find success on your own terms."

Gala Tent website

Images: Gala Tent

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