Tuesday, September 8, 2015

News: Renaissance for town centre masterplan


Consultants are being brought in by Rotherham Council as it revisits the masterplan for the town centre, previously developed under the ambitious Rotherham Renaissance initiative.

Recognising the need to regenerate the town centre, in the autumn of 2001 the Council and partners launched an urban renaissance programme.

As part of this, a broad 25 year vision for the town centre and adjoining areas was identified by the community, businesses and the Council. As part of Yorkshire Forward's Renaissance Towns initiative, ten goals for Rotherham town centre were identified and in 2005 a masterplan produced – the Strategic Development Framework. In 2008 the masterplan was updated and approved by the Council as an Interim Planning Statement.

A number of retail and leisure studies have been carried out since to assist in planning and regeneration decision making.

Commissioners at the Council have stated that the existing Renaissance Plan will be reviewed and a refresh commissioned to further inform the Economic Growth Plan that is set to be approved at a full Council meeting later this month.

Since the 2005 masterplan was published, the Rotherham Renaissance initiative, that was forecast to attract £2 billion of investment, saw a number of high profile projects completed including the new housing developments as part of the Westgate Demonstrator project, the new £12m railway station, the £14m flood alleviation scheme, the new £60m civic offices and £20m stadium on the Guest and Chrimes site and £40m Tesco across town. Despite the government pulling the plug on a planned large scale redevelopment, Rotherham College has invested around £18m in the last four years improving campus facilities.

Following the economic downturn and reductions in government funding, the private sector has significantly reigned in developments in areas like Rotherham. Without access to government or European finance, the Council has also decided to sell off assets such as Westgate Chamber and the former hospital site on Doncaster Gate.

Projects that are taking place include the heritage-led regeneration of the High Street and a pot of funding is being used to provide financial support for new and expanding retailers with a focus on creating a different and vibrant retail offer by supporting independent traders. Rotherham is a "Portas Pilot" using government and private sector funding to support retail which has helped to reduce vacancy rates, boost footfall and increase shopper satisfaction.

A report by the Commissioners on the progress made over the last six months states: "The existing Renaissance Plan is currently being reviewed and the Council is currently seeking consultants to provide a review and update of the Rotherham Renaissance Plan produced in 2005, leading to a clear articulation of our vision for the town centre and the role it will play in driving forward economic growth within the Borough.

"The review of the plan will provide an opportunity to examine progress made in the development of Rotherham town centre. It will underpin the Council's future vision for the town centre, identifying new threats and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses.

"Upon appointment of the selected consultants, the project is intended to commence in September 2015, with a draft final report expected to be submitted during November for the Council's consideration and approval."

The Council is also revisiting how it can support large scale regeneration by developing a capital finance strategy to assess projects that require significant financial investment, with a town centre cinema expected to be put forward.

Other potential future projects already being discussed for the town centre include a public sector office hub on Forge Island; a potential £12m University Campus with Rotherham College; a redeveloped markets complex; a potential redevelopment of the bus station; and potential retail developments on the current car park on Drummond Street and the site out of the outdoor market.

Further development is hoped on the edge of the town centre on the large area of 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 vision in the latest draft of the Local Plan "is to create an attractive, vibrant and re-populated town centre, which is well connected to rejuvenated, high quality and distinctive sustainable neighbourhoods, has the best in architecture and design and capitalises upon public spaces and a new riverside, making Rotherham a more vibrant place to work, visit, live and invest in."

Rotherham Town Centre website

Images: RMBC


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