Tuesday, January 19, 2021

News: £11m for Rotherham town centre cycle schemes

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Key routes across Rotherham town centre could be transformed from "no cycling" to "go cycling" thanks to regeneration funding.

£11m is set to be spent on infrastructure to accommodate cyclists in pedestrianised areas, on a new bridge as part of the Forge Island scheme, and on creating walking and cycling routes between Rotherham and Sheffield.

Rothbiz reported last year that a Rotherham Town Centre Active Travel programme was one of a number of local schemes in line for funding via the Sheffield City Region's (SCR's) successful bid to the Government's Transforming Cities Fund.

Now further details have been revealed in SCR board papers for a package of measures to facilitate walking and cycling to, from and within Rotherham town centre. The three schemes drawn up by Rotherham Council are:

Contribution to Frederick Street walking and cycling route
Public realm improvements on Frederick Street incorporating cycling infrastructure in the core town centre with amendments to the traffic regulation order to allow cycling (currently prohibited) along this street. Currently the layout of the street and public realm is unattractive and would not adequately accommodate cyclists. The improvements will in particular improve the environment for pedestrians accessing Rotherham Bus Interchange.

Contribution to Forge Island Footbridge
Replacing the existing footbridge across the River Don between the core town centre and Forge Island with a high-quality pedestrian bridge. This is part of the works to regenerate Forge Island and will provide an improved environment for pedestrian movements between the town centre, Forge Island and Rotherham Central Station. Should the private sector funds not come forward within the TCF programme delivery dates, there will be an additional £290k ask from the TCF programme. Either way, the intention is to deliver the bridge by March 2023.

Sheffield Road Walking and Cycling improvements
Comprising walking and cycling routes, supporting housing delivery in the Westgate Riverside area. Pedestrian improvements are to be focused on enabling journeys to the town centre and onward via public transport and making this more attractive so as to support both housing delivery and the vitality of the town centre. This links to plans for a cycle scheme and improvements at Templeborough all the way to Sheffield.

The £10.9m programme, with £9.3m coming via the Sheffield City Region Mayoral Combined Authority, involves 2.9km of route for non-motorised users. Meeting papers explain that it is "a high quality scheme that will improve local permeability, with subsequent impacts on generating new pedestrian and cycle trips with wider positive traffic, environment and economic outcomes."

A full business case for the project is now likely to be taken to the full Mayoral Combined Authority board for approval.

The funding follows on from a secured slice of the £5.46m announced at the end of 2020 that is set to be used for another Rotherham town centre route - Wellgate.

Active Travel Funding has been secured for part of a Council scheme for measures between the town centre and Whiston and Wickersley. The idea of creating a "Low Traffic Neighbourhood" in Broom is also being developed. The authority bid for £1.5m but have received less. Work is set to initially focus on the roundabout at Broom Road, Clifton Lane, Badsley Moor Lane and Wellgate, with more cycle measures on Wellgate into the town centre.

Cllr. Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council, said: "The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the people in Rotherham travel. Many residents have taken to new walking and cycling routines they established during lockdown and so this funding is very much welcomed.

"Active travel is so important for people’s health and wellbeing and this funding will encourage even more people to benefit from an active lifestyle. The schemes due to be implemented will also help us work towards our ongoing goal of reducing air pollution in the borough."

Images: Google Maps

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News: Re-Start to Growth reminder

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Businesses in Rotherham are being reminded that help and guidance is available through the Sheffield City Region (SCR) Growth Hub to meet the challenges brought about by this latest Coronavirus lockdown.

The Re-Start to Growth initiative was introduced to help businesses affected by the Coronavirus lockdown, by giving them access to experienced and skilled advisors to help assess, plan and restart through an agreed programme of intensive support.

James Muir, Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, explains: ”The latest lockdown is another major blow to businesses that have been struggling through local and national restrictions for months. The Growth Hub is here to provide essential advice to these businesses, helping them navigate the support available and find solutions to the key challenges they are facing.”

The Mayoral Combined Authority, Mayor Dan Jarvis and the Local Enterprise Partnership recently launched its ambitious £1.7bn Renewal Action Plan (RAP) clearly demonstrating how the Sheffield City Region is investing in and supporting the local economy. The Renewal Action Plan is designed to support businesses to adapt, survive and thrive in the new environment and to create a more productive and innovative economy.

At the moment, the Growth Hub is supporting and guiding hospitality, leisure and non-essential retail businesses that are affected by the national lockdown. These businesses, including travel agents, caterers to events or celebrations, or companies supplying equipment or services to gym and leisure centres, are eligible to receive a one-off payment grant, based on their rateable or rental values, to help them whilst restrictions are in place.

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Many businesses are also taking advantage of Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s Re-Start to Growth initiative, which gives businesses access to experienced and skilled experts to help assess, plan and restart their business through an agreed programme of intensive support.

This free initiative comprises two full days with an experienced growth specialist, who can offer business leaders help and guidance in the following areas:

- Strategic planning & Leadership support
- Sales and Marketing
- Operations
- Financial advice
- Skills, including Digital and IT

In addition to Re-Start to Growth, Peer Networks are being introduced in South Yorkshire with SME business leaders invited to work with others to address challenges and grow their businesses.

The programme, which is being delivered by the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, will enable business leaders to build trusted connections to support them now and in the future, with a view to improving their long term personal and business performance. Many businesses impacted by the coronavirus lockdown are looking to use this time to network with other like-minded businesses, gain an important external perspective on their business challenges, as well as gaining knowledge of digital technology to help achieve growth in the future.

James Muir adds: “Peer Networks are a great way for local SME business leaders to work collaboratively with others to find solutions to common business problems in a non-competitive environment. In these unprecedented times, we believe this will enhance and strengthen the local business community so we can build back better for a stronger post-COVID recovery.”

To further enhance the support available to businesses, Sheffield City Region has recently expanded its team of expert advisers by appointing seven new Business Growth Specialists. Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s advisors all have many years of industry experience; from manufacturing and service sector through to finance and international operations, and offer an independent, impartial perspective, which can make all the difference.

James Muir explains: “It is a critical time for many businesses in our region. What they are experiencing is totally unprecedented, which means it is important that we have a strong team of advisers in place to be able to guide South Yorkshire companies through the local and national growth schemes that are available to them.

“We are planning to recruit even more specialists and advisors in the coming months, in line with the Renewal Action Plan as it will help this region’s businesses to return to growth and prosperity – making our economy and society stronger, greener and fairer.”

Sheffield City Region Growth Hub website

Images: SCR

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Thursday, January 14, 2021

News: Network Rail and partners launch Tram Train Pilot Learning Hub

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It was once branded an example of "how not to run a rail project" and now others can learn from the experience of designing, constructing and operating Britain's first Tram Train system.

Starting services in 2018, passengers in South Yorkshire were the first in the country to benefit from the innovative pilot project where special vehicles use pioneering technology to run on both Sheffield's tramlines and the rail network in Rotherham. Funded by the Government, the trial aims to show how similar services can be introduced across the country.

In 2017 the Public Accounts Committee looked at the issues of cost increases and delays, the under-estimation of the scale and complexity of the works, and the risks involved in delivering new technology. It said that it had all the makings of a "how not to" seminar for future projects.

Generally, Tram Trains can provide new journeys and connections with much less infrastructure than totally new tram or rail routes. Passengers can make a single, seamless journey between light rail tram stops and conventional heavy rail stations. And with many being electric or battery-powered they are better for the environment.

The launch of the hub is a key part of the scheme which runs between Sheffield Cathedral and Rotherham Parkgate via Rotherham Central station, linking previously unconnected areas.

The pilot, funded by the DfT, has been running for two years to test customer satisfaction, passenger numbers, reliability and costs. The scheme has proven popular and scored 96% for user satisfaction on the latest independent survey by Transport Focus.

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The hub is a comprehensive body of learning available free of charge that will benefit and boost future light and heavy rail hybrid schemes like Tram Train. It is hosted by the web-based SharpCloud system and is further enhanced by easy navigation, a high-quality graphic interface and updates through to mid-2021.

Simon Coulthard, Network Rail’s Head of Light Rail Knowledge & Development, said: “The launch of the learning hub marks another major milestone in the delivery of the Tram Train Pilot. I thank my colleagues in SYPTE, Supertram and Network Rail for helping to compile the information and data that makes this a very comprehensive learning resource. I hope colleagues in the industry will find the hub valuable as they assess the potential for Tram Train elsewhere.”

The launch of the hub marks the first major deliverable for Network Rail’s new Light Rail Knowledge team which is part of the Network Services directorate. The team, led by Simon, has been created to provide a centre of excellence in Network Rail for light rail matters. Simon, and Light Rail Knowledge Manager Alex Dodds, work closely with colleagues and stakeholders to share learning from the Tram Train Pilot and help assess the next generation of light rail schemes that could benefit passengers and communities.

Alex, who maintains the hub, said: “It’s taken a huge effort by all the partners to bring our collective learning into one accessible forum. I’m really excited to be sharing our knowledge and helping the development of future light rail schemes.”

Images: SYPTE

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News: Rotherham label company tagged for future growth

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Hine Labels, based in Rotherham, has bounced back stronger from the impact of Covid-19 lockdown, after it took the opportunity to refocus and develop its people through training part funded by Sheffield City Region Growth Hub’s Skills Bank.

Hine, known as the Label Experts, saw business reduce significantly back in March, but they managed to stay open as much of their work was in the food industry, although a number of employees had to be temporarily furloughed.

The company, based in the Greasbrough Road area, had secured a productivity grant of £100k in 2019 to extend its workspace by double the size as it had outgrown its premises and capacity issues were preventing further business expansion. Hine Labels also invested in Lean Training to help the company to increase productivity.

Anita Hine, managing director of Hine Labels, said: "Work dropped off drastically in March but the furlough scheme proved to be a lifeline for our employees – many of whom have been with us for several years. We kept a core team working and focused on meeting customer needs and maintaining our high standards of service and delivery. We received large orders for hand sanitising labels, which essentially kept our cashflow going at this difficult time.

"We had just appointed a Marketing Manager, Caroline Haywood of Purple Genie too and she embarked on a digital marketing campaign aimed at generating more orders from existing customers. As the business was quieter, we decided to take advantage of this and focus on setting our company up for growth."

Hine Labels appointed Genius Division in Barnsley to build a new website and a modern brand identity. The company also set out to differentiate its traditional trade work from its online offering – Houp.com, which is a new e-commerce site developed for customers who wanted small orders of pouches and labels.

Hine Labels has also created several new roles in recent months, including Digital Finishing and Despatch Supervisors, a Quality Manager and a Health & Safety Manager. Another major impact of the training is that Hine Labels has been able to reduce waste, which should also have a beneficial impact on its bottom line.

Anita added: "I'm delighted to report that we have come out of the pandemic as a much stronger business. We have been able to bring our employees back from furlough and have moved into the new extension. Our workflow is now organised in a more efficient way and the new extension means we can become a BRC High Hygiene factory, so could produce our new flexible packaging range."

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Over the last few months, Hine Labels has embarked on Lean Training with Lee Marlow of Astrum Business Transformation Ltd, which was fully funded through Skills Bank.

The Lean Training has led to a fundamental shift in the way Hine Labels ran the business. The company now has two separate workflows: one for traditional flexo printing and the other for digital printing. This means that the digital workflow can be much more automated, allowing for greater throughput.

Anita added: "Lean Training has helped us to identify the blockages in our production process. As a result, we have, for the first time, introduced shifts to improve efficiency. Staff have responded well to this as they were part of the process and recognised the need to change.

"Astrum worked with staff at all levels of the company and this has helped to bring about cultural change. As a result, we were able to move from a mindset of ‘we’ve always done it like this’ to embrace new ways of thinking, harnessing peoples’ skills to really benefit the company and change thinking across the entire business. Staff are now encouraged to put ideas forward and where these are adopted, we make sure the change is implemented effectively and safely channelled through the quality system. It really has transformed us from a small family firm to be ready to meet the challenges of a larger, more productive enterprise."

Rachel Fletcher, Sheffield City Region Growth Hub Business Advisor, said: "Hine Labels is a very forward-thinking business that recognised the need for change and has embraced this fully. The company is reaping the benefits of its larger facility and the Skills Bank training has meant a whole shift in culture and focus which will set them up for more growth. We are very excited to see what the future holds for Hine Labels."

Anita concludes: "We are extremely grateful for the support we have received from the Growth Hub Business Advisors and the Skills Advisors, in particular Rachel Fletcher and Julie Mather. We expect to see significant growth in the next 12 months and hopefully this will mean we can create more employment opportunities.

"We are projecting a significant increase in turnover for the coming year and feel sufficiently confident to invest a further half a million pounds in new equipment due to arrive early in the New Year."

Skills Bank is a programme developed by the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership which matches private sector investment in skills training with public funding to help businesses invest in their workforce and improve their productivity. Funding is available to businesses that make a strong case for how the investment will deliver growth.

Hine Labels website
SCR Skills Bank website

Images: SCR Skills Bank

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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

News: Why new green spaces are planned for Rotherham town centre

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A number of regeneration projects in Rotherham town centre include demolishing buildings and creating green space on the cleared site. Now Rotherham Council has explained why.

A shrinking retail core is the key reason - with Rotherham town centre judged to have too much retail space.

The potential for building on the cleared land in the future was also cited.

At Forge Island, where a multimillion pound leisure development is going ahead with a new cinema, hotel and food & drink outlets, Council owned buildings on Corporation Street are being demolished to open up the site to the rest of the town centre. The site being cleared is expected to feature a 1,500 sq ft café in an open area called "Millgate Place."

Also nearby, the Council's Riverside car park is set to become "a playful green space connecting Forge Island with the heart of the town providing recreational space for residents and visitors," if funding can be found.

The masterplan also includes ideas for open space around the markets and college campus, close to the award-winning Clifton Park.

On the High Street, proposals have been submitted by the authority that cover the demolition of the vacant Primark buildings and the creation of a park.

The Council purchased the site using funding from the Towns Fund Accelerator programme. The Government awarded a £1m grant to kick start regeneration projects in Rotherham town centre and a bid for more funding, possibly £25m, is being submitted this month.

When asked about the Primark proposals at a recent Council meeting, Paul Woodcock, strategic director, Regeneration and Environment at Rotherham Council, said: "Part of the Town Centre Masterplan and the approach is to shrink the amount of retail footprint.

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"Most town centres are seeing that, now with more online, COVID has accelerated that and Rotherham having lots of empty voids, it is felt that we need a smaller footprint for retail in the main, repurposing other buildings for other uses such as residential, leisure uses such as Forge Island, and so forth, and therefore Primark forms part of that in terms of shrinking the retail and improving that area, smartening it up and having some nice open space that could be permanent, or could be temporary, because you could put something on in future years should there be a desire and need to do so."

The masterplan made it clear that retail is not the answer as the focus shifts to other town centre uses such as leisure and housing.

The long term ambition for the Primark site is as residential use but the recent application enables a park to be in place for five years, allowing for housing plans to be drawn up and for funding to be found.

Town centre trader, Rob Felstead, called on the council to repurpose the vacant building to generate footfall - possibly as a new home for the central library.

Cllr. Denise Lelliott, Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy at Rotherham Council, said: "The Primark building was chosen by the Town Centre Fund Board, which is made up of businesses, to be put forward, not just as a small project. With not much wasteland at the back it will open up that area and actually, the George Wright building will actually be seen by people and more easy access which I think will be a good thing.

"We are shrinking retail because all over the country town centres are facing problems as people shop online ... we are ahead of the curve with our independents and putting housing back in the town centre to repopulate it. Again this can only be a good thing."

Mr Felstead also reitereated concerns over problems of crime and antisocial behaivour in town.



Images: RMBC / PWP / Muse

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