Tuesday, June 11, 2024

News: How would you spend £20m to improve Rotherham town centre?

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Views and ideas are being invited on Rotherham's Long-Term Plan that will guide a £20m investment into the town over the next ten years.

Rothbiz reported in 2023 that Rotherham had been selected by the government as one of 55 towns to be given £20m endowment-style funds to invest in local people’s priorities.

Rotherham has been given the opportunity to develop a long-term plan supported by a Towns Board (A private-sector chaired Rotherham Town Deal Board is already established to oversee regeneration progress. It contains representatives from a wide range of key sectors).

The board is now inviting everyone to take part in consultation for the fund.

Town Boards have been asked by the Government to submit their Long-Term Plans (comprising their 10-year vision and 3-year investment plan) before August 1. The Plan will set out how funding will be allocated and spent, with the local authority as the body ultimately accountable for funding.

The government says that community engagement is at the heart of the Long-Term Plan for Towns, so plans should reflect local priorities and be co-designed with communities, businesses and residents, drawing on available evidence and data.

Plans are set to focus on three key themes:

- Safety and security
- High streets, heritage and regeneration
- Transport and connectivity

Whitehall has also published a policy toolkit, a list of interventions that provide the opportunity for Town Boards to take bespoke, ‘off-menu’ approaches where such an approach can be justified, and significant flexibility is offered to tailor the Long-Term Plan across the three broad investment themes.

The toolkit includes things like using powers to tackle anti-social behaviour, holding High Street Rental Auctions to bring empty units back into use, establishing a Business Improvement District (BID), using planning policies such as Local Development Orders (LDOs) and neighbourhood plans, bringing forward more Assets of Community Value, and more policies that were introduced via the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023.

Other possible interventions include improving CCTV, flood alleviation, green spaces, cultural events, place promotion, tourism initiatives and active travel enhancements.

To find out what matters to Rotherham, consultation involves a using a Place Standard tool and a survey consists of 14 topics, each with a question that asks you to rate Rotherham town centre on a scale of 1 to 7.

The online consultation can be found here.

Public consultation events are also taking place and business and community groups are also being asked to act as hosts.

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At the same time, the three regional South Yorkshire Chambers of Commerce, have been asking businesses to share their views on what the priorities should be for their nearest town or city centre.

The latest iteration of the South Yorkshire Quarterly Economic Survey is canvassing their views on the cleanliness, safety, green spaces, retail offer and cultural scene of the nearest town or city centre, while also asking them to identify their top three priorities for making it a better place to do business. They will also be encouraged to highlight any examples (from around the country) of places that can serve as an inspiration for South Yorkshire and its ambitions.

Urging businesses to complete The Town and City Centre Survey, the three South Yorkshire Chambers (the respective networks for Doncaster, Sheffield and Barnsley & Rotherham) issued the following joint statement:

“By the very nature of what we do as networks, we are always interacting with businesses and, in the process, ask for their views on a myriad of topics. While there is a wide range of issues that concern our members, one thing that often comes up, totally unprompted, is the wellbeing and relative prosperity of the town and city centres we have here in South Yorkshire.

“We know that this is a matter close to the hearts of many local businesspeople, which is why we have decided to give them the opportunity for their voices to be heard through our new survey. We want to know how important the notion of civic pride is to them, where they believe there is room for improvement, what they’d like to see prioritised in terms of future investment, and if they consider a flourishing centre to be something that is key to their own ambitions.

“It’s imperative that we get as many different perspectives on this issue as possible, to ensure that we have authoritative data that’s truly representative of what businesses think. Indeed, the greater the response, the louder and more informative that collective voice is.”

Images: WOW / RMBC

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News: Stop press. Daily Mail owners end printing at Rotherham site

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It cost £60m and received a Royal opening in 2007, but a print facility in Rotherham has fallen silent.

It comes as circulation of print newspapers in the UK has plummeted from over 8 million newspapers per day in 2012 to under 3 million per day in 2023.

Rothbiz reported in October that the state-of-the-art printing facility in Dinnington was under threat.

DMG Media, the operators of The Daily Mail, Metro and i newspapers and websites, and News UK, (formerly News International), the current publisher of The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sun newspapers, proposed a joint venture which would combine their printing operations.

The proposal would retain three current sites in Broxbourne (Hertfordshire), Knowsley (Merseyside) and Eurocentral (Glasgow), and would potentially mean the closure of DMG Media sites in Thurrock and Dinnington.

DMG Media only acquired the site at Dinnington in 2020.

The facility was created by Johnston Press at a cost of £60m on the site of the former colliery. The site, which is also known as Associated Print Holdings, had one of the most modern and fastest presses in the world and has printed everything from the Daily Express, Daily Star and The Sun, to the Yorkshire Post and Sheffield Star. Other major customers included regional publications and many niche publications.

The site survived Johnston Press plc going into administraion in 2018 with debts of over £200m. It was bought by a new company, JPIMedia.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a non-ministerial department of the government that promotes competitive markets and tackles unfair behaviour, has cleared the latest deal.

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Documents published last month by the CMA explain that the rationale for the merger was due to the sytematic decline of national newspaper circulation which had resultanted in spare capacity.

The deal is a turnaround for the Knowsley site and comes at the expense of Dinnington.

News UK announced the closure of its Knowsley site in May 2023 and DMG entered into discussions over the future as it outsourced work to the Merseyside site. This ultimately ended up being the long term joint venture to run the combined print operations, with Knowsley staying open and Dinnington closing.

The CMA conlcuded that, if the merger had not gone ahead, the closure of Knowsley would have made News UK a weaker competitor and meant that DMG would have taken work in-house to Dinnington which would have then reduced its own ability to compete for third party contracts due to limited capacity.

The 2023 decision by National World, the company behind The Scotsman, the Yorkshire Post, and the Rotherham Advertiser, to sign a deal with Newsquest that saw production end in Dinnington, will not have helped the site's cause.

Print editions at Dinnington were transferred in April and the new company said that "following the consultation some colleagues at Thurrock and Dinnington will be employed at NewCo sites."

A statement from DMG said: "These plans bear no reflection on the professionalism, commitment, pride and dedication of our colleagues. The news industry has transformed and continues to change rapidly. We needed to make changes to our print capacity to underpin our commitment to our print titles and their readers.

"This was a difficult but necessary step to provide a sustainable future for our print operations and we thank all our colleagues at the print sites for their hard work and long-standing contributions to DMG Media and the wider print industry."

Production Director, Julia Palmer-Poucher, who is expected to transfer from DMG to the NewCo, said: “The news industry has transformed and continues to change rapidly. We needed to make changes to our print capacity to underpin our commitment to our print titles and their readers. This was a difficult but necessary step to provide a sustainable future for our print operations. Whilst I am saddened that our sites will close, this decision ends a period of uncertainty and allows us to proceed.”

The deal is expected to complete this month.

DMG Media website
News UK website

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Thursday, June 6, 2024

News: Innovation campus plan for Rotherham mainline station site

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A masterplan has been drawn up for a new business district based around the potential new mainline station in Rotherham, with newly released images showing how it could look.

Rothbiz reported at the end of 2023 on efforts to secure land at Forge Way, Parkgate for an integrated station on the mainline and a tram-train stop.

The new station, developed by the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) and Rotherham Council, alongside Network Rail, would see the reintroduction of mainline train services in Rotherham – including receiving direct London services for the first time since the 1980s.

The project was one of many contained in the "Network North" document, published by the Government when it axed HS2 going beyond Birmingham. It also featured as a commercial development opporunity in SYMCA's investment portfolio that was showcased recently at UKREIIF - a forum focused on accelerating and unlocking investment in the UK.

The Parkgate site is one of many in Rotherham that sits within the South Yorkshire Investment Zone where £160m of funding is set to be used to offer investors, developers and start-ups a combination of targeted support and financial interventions to start, scale up and relocate their businesses.

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A Rotherham Council update on the station proposal indicates that the masterplan is close to conclusion with its delivery strategy expected imminently. It is expected to be a 20-year vision for the area surrounding the station.

The update states: "The Station Masterplan sets out a blueprint for the regeneration of land in the station vicinity and focuses on the development of an Innovation Campus to the West of the core station area. This plan draws on the strengths of the borough in advanced manufacturing and innovation, complementing and building on the existing offer at the Advanced Manufacturing Park, Sheffield Business Park and the University of Sheffield’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. The innovation campus at the station would form the north-eastern tip of the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID)."

Soft market testing on the station masterplan has been undertaken with a number of developers, and the concept of the innovation campus "was extremely well received."

Details released so far show that the station building is situated in the north-west corner of the core station area adjacent to a proposed car park and concourse that would link the Mainline and Tram-Train platforms.

The 19,300 sq ft proposed station building has the potential for three floors with a dual-function building being the preferred option. RIDO (the regeneration arm of Rotherham Council) is already assessing the viability of opening a new business centre in the building.

An illustrative sketch published by SYMCA show a much wider area primed for redevelopment - sites including Mangham Way on the Barbot Hall Industrial Estate, the former council depot on Greashbrough Road, land at Northfield between North Drive and Forge Way that sits between the two train lines, and land around the Rotherham Cut of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation canal.

£10m was secured through the Town Deal to prepare the Station Masterplan and acquire land necessary to facilitate delivery of the station. A further £1m funding from the devolved City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) funding was secured to develop the Outline Business Case (OBC).

The total cost was listed as £107.6m in 2022. £99.5m for the station and £7.1m for the tram-train stop.

Work continues on a full business case for the station which is due for submission in the summer.

Images: SYMCA

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News: New team taking on Three Cranes Inn

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A historic building at the heart of the heritage High Street in Rotherham town centre has new tenants, with the team behind the popular retail and cafe businesses a few doors down expanding again.

Rothbiz reported in 2022 on the opening of Over The Rainbow, a technicolour café bar taking on a vacant unit on the High Street. It was the next venture for Danii and Chris Paston, the entrepreneurial wife and husband team behind Yella Brick Road - the mainstay retail emporium embracing fun fashion and pop culture.

Now it has been confirmed that the team are expanding again, taking on the tenancy of the Three Cranes Inn.

One of Rotherham's oldest buildings, it was saved as part of ambitious regeneration plans led by Chris Hamby, when the listed buildings were renovated and used as an antiques centre. In 2019, the space was converted into a traditional English pub.

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A post on social media has confirmed the move. It said: "To put it simply, the cafe-bar has been getting busier and busier for some time, and we're a little too small for what we have always wanted to do in evenings... and in the day too to a certain extent. We don't want to (or even can) outline all our plans at this stage; it's literally happened in the space of two weeks and so we're still nailing every detail down.

"There are a couple of venues we absolutely love in Sheffield and what they've offered to our neighbours across the border. And so, we're very excited to be bringing the ability to socialise into the evening while competing/having fun with friends to our own town centre."

The plan is set to involve keeping Over the Rainbow as it is, but moving some of the events hosted there to the Three Cranes. The pub is set to maintain a focus on real ale and craft ale, but with the addition of cocktails, hot drinks and more.

The ideal plan is to have the pub reopen in time for the massive Reytons gig in Clifton Park on July 6.

The original Three Cranes Inn occupied a timber framed building dating back to the 15th Century - the only timber framed building to survive in Rotherham town centre. It was on English Heritage's "at risk register" having been in a state of disrepair for many years.

It was probably built as a merchant's town house around 1600 and an earlier wing consists of a medieval open hall block that retains evidence for a high status "coved" area at one end, known as a dais.

It is thought to have closed as a pub in 1907 and half of the building was demolished in 1953 leaving a twin-gabled façade for retail units on the ground floor.

Three Cranes Facebook page

Images: Three Cranes / Facebook

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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

News: £750m PFI waste contract to be taken over

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Renewi plc is getting rid of the loss-making contract at the 220,000 sq ft "BDR" waste facility in Rotherham.

It comes as Biffa, a leader in UK sustainable waste management, entered into an agreement to acquire Renewi’s municipal business in the UK. An alternative could have seen the facility handed back to the council.

The waste treatment facility at Brookfield's Park, which became fully operational in 2015, takes around 250,000 tonnes a year and creates a material suitable for recovery and recycling and includes Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) and Anaerobic Digestion (AD) facilities. More than 97% of the waste received is diverted from landfill.

Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham (BDR) Councils secured £77m through the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) for the scheme and the operators signed a 25 year contract worth in excess of £750m with the councils for the treatment of black bag waste.

Renewi has struggled with its UK municipal waste contracts, which it described as a "cash drag on the group – with a total cash outflow of approximately €28m over the last 24 months."

A strategic review of the business began last year with bosses looking to withdraw completely from the UK market. The company was formed when Shanks plc completed a merger with Dutch waste service provider and raw material and energy supplier, Van Gansewinkel Groep B.V., in 2017.

The deal covers five contracts and will have a net cost of €57m to Renewi but will free them from "unpredictable UK Municipal liabilities" and "Onerous Contract Provisions (OCPs)."

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In a statement, Renewi said: "The contracts were entered into more than ten years ago, by a Renewi predecessor; they are break-even or structurally loss-making and, in the absence of a legislative shift or significant changes in market conditions, can be neither prematurely terminated nor renegotiated by Renewi."

Michael Topham, CEO, Biffa, said: “The addition of these five contracts to our existing contracts in West Sussex, Leicester and Somerset further establishes our reputation as a trusted provider of complex, long-term waste treatment contracts to local governments.

“Our combined expertise will position us well for the future as we seek to help local governments deliver their net zero targets. We look forward to welcoming the Renewi UK team to Biffa and to working with our new customers in due course."

As part of the deal, around 550 Renewi staff will now become part of the Biffa group.

The five contracts are with the Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham (BDR) Waste Partnership, Cumbria County Council, Wakefield Council, East London Waste Authority and Argyle & Bute Council.

Renewi website
Biffa website

Images: BDR Waste Partnership

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