Wednesday, December 17, 2014

News: Final curtain for Forge Island cinema plan?


Rotherham Council has switched its focus away from a cinema and theatre development on the vacant Forge Island site in Rotherham town centre.

In 2012, the council's cabinet confirmed the prominent site as the preferred location for a new town centre cinema and theatre and developers and operators were sought. In the short term, the council is operating the former home of the Rotherham Forge & Rolling Mills as a car park now that Tesco has moved across the town.

The new £40m, 110,000 sq ft Tesco Extra opened in November and also includes 540 parking spaces and a petrol filling station, on a five-acre site on Drummond Street that was previously home to a number of council buildings.

As part of the move, the council has an option to buy the Forge Island site for £1.5m. Arrangements have been progressed for the strategic acquisition of the vacated site, which could include a purchase and sale to a third party.

The future of the site was highlighted in the recently published final draft of the borough's Local Plan that stated that "the future of the site is uncertain, as are any constraints (such as land contamination). As such it is not identified as a leisure or office development site."

Now, council bosses have confirmed that the Forge Island site is being earmarked for an ambitious plan to create a public sector hub, which could result in thousands of additional jobs in the town centre.

Cllr. Dominic Beck, cabinet member for Business Growth and Regeneration, gave an update at a full council meeting last week on the progress on the site. He said: "We are looking at other options for Forge Island, which will be coming out in the next month or so, in terms of potentially delivering a public sector hub.

"Working with the Government to move the civil service increasingly out of London because it is expensive, we are working with the Cabinet office to potentially deliver a public sector hub on Forge Island.

"We are one of the leaders in the country in doing this. Riverside House was one of the first "hubs" of local government and public sector hub working and they are coming to us to have a conversation about how they can do that in Rotherham.

"It would be a huge coup but we don't know at the end of the day. We have got plans, and we are working with others to come up with plans."

Rothbiz featured the idea in August after it was mentioned by the planning inspector signing off the core strategy of the borough's local plan. Richard Hollox, planning inspector, said in his report: "One of the objectives of the Economic Plan for Rotherham 2008 – 2020 is to secure a vibrant town centre with a high quality office market. This is a worthy ambition and should result in a greater range of employment opportunities and less commuting to, for example, Sheffield.

"Of note is the Council's interest in the possibility of a Public Sector Hub whereby public sector departments would share accommodation on an office campus. This, the Council considers, could result in an additional 5,000 jobs in the town."
In 2012, Riverside House became Rotherham's new Civic Building on the edge of the town centre on the Guest & Chrimes site. Bringing together staff from a number of locations, the £60m investment houses 2,400 employees at only 1,308 desks.

The Waverley development in Rotherham was all set to create a government office campus on land next to the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP). Helical Bar plc, Governetz Ltd and Haworth Estates worked together with the intention to provide high specification offices for government departments in response to a desire to move activities out of central London and into the regions.

Outline plans for a 645,000 sq ft development, enough space for 2,000 staff, were approved but changes in government and large scale cuts meant that the plans were shelved.

With plans coming forward for cinema developments in the nearby town centres of Barnsley and Doncaster, will Rotherham get is first cinema 30 years after The Scala closed on Corporation Street?

Cllr Beck added: "The development of the town centre does not just include Forge Island but it includes other elements of the town such as the Guest & Chrimes building - and the football club have got their own proposals around that - there's all the way down Westgate and the Royal Mail depot, to deliver projects."

The local plan picks out a number of sites where mixed use development such as a cinema (known as "assembly and leisure" uses) are considered appropriate. These include land at New York, which includes Riverside House, New York Stadium, the former Guest & Chrimes foundry, a former nightclub and vacant land used for parking.

The current car park on Drummond Street and the site out of the outdoor market have been identified as potential development sites for new retail alongside the site of burnt-out buildings on Corporation Street but they all also have the potential for redevelopment as other town centre uses, including offices, assembly and leisure uses or hotels.

The prominent Westgate site of the sorting office and car parking is being put forward for housing, office and hotel uses.

Images: Tom Austen / RMBC


Anonymous,  December 17, 2014 at 11:14 AM  

More pie in the sky from Rmbc & still no cinema! Don't expect anything soon !

Unknown December 19, 2014 at 1:34 PM  

how sad and unambitious rmbc sat on the rivers and canals developed in so many uk cities and towns, nice pubs restaurants cinemas etc people flock to them- another opportunity missed

david orr January 4, 2015 at 11:05 PM  

so much for the heralded Renaissance of Rotherham and its proposed 'cultural quarter' with cinema and theatre (ho ho). Rotherham being yet again left behind developments in Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield - what a pathetic council we have (till elections this May when they can be thrown out - if, that is, Rotherham people wake up to how Labour have run the council for years and years). Hopefully Rotherham citizens who for ever have been faithfully going into polling stations to vote Labour might realise at last the need for change to get the town moving!

Unknown March 13, 2015 at 1:03 PM  

Another nail in the coffin for this town , Rmbc have wasted millions and not delivered there is a plentiful supply of office space in this area but barely any retail and lesuire outlets worth mentioning in the town centre we are well behind the rest of south Yorkshire , This news is the best advertising for us to spend our money in Sheffield I've seen Phwwwrr !

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