Thursday, December 10, 2015

News: Rotherham retail core set to shrink


The future of the award-winning Rotherham town centre could include less shops and more leisure uses - including a potential cinema.

Rotherham Council has appointed consultants at ARUP to review the town centre masterplan following the adoption of the Rotherham Growth Plan, the strategic economic plan for the borough that has recently been signed off.

As part of Rotherham's Renaissance programme, a broad 25 year vision for the town centre and adjoining areas was identified by the community, businesses and the Council. 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 to assist in planning and regeneration decision making.

Providing an update, Sir Derek Myers, lead commissioner at Rotherham Council, said: "The Council is refreshing (after ten years) its Rotherham Town Centre Masterplan. At present we seem to be carrying more retail units than the market can fill and this has a very serious effect on the look and feel of the town. Without prejudging, it seems likely that we will want to shrink the retail core and work harder to add in more leisure uses.

"A cinema has been talked about for the town centre for many years and we see no reason why we cannot deliver this in due course.

"The town centre will benefit from more residential accommodation so there is more of a local population with money to spend in the local shops."

Through the local plan, the latest draft has proposals to extend the town centre boundary north to include the new 10,000 sq m Tesco and car park at Walker Place, and existing car park at Drummond Street, to better define the area where retail development is concentrated. A street by street definition of primary and secondary frontages has also been drafted, restricting uses in different areas.

The issue of Rotherham having "too many shops" was highlighted last year by retail expert Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company. He said that: "until a tighter more vibrant centre is achieved then vacancy will always be the blight it cannot escape," adding that: "for sustainable health Rotherham must play to its strengths and create a balanced and sustainable retail, leisure and services offer to achieve the magnetism it deserves."

The town centre features prominently in the new Corporate Plan, with the refreshed masterplan setting strategy for investment in key central sites such as Forge Island and around the river. Benefits are set to include around 2,000 new homes, waterside development, expanded cultural offer and evening economy such as a cinema, hotel and restaurants, and a revitalised market.

It is expected that, to secure a cinema, a reverse premium would need to be provided as operators say that a cinema in Rotherham town centre would not be financially viable.

On the proposed university campus being planned for the town centre, Commissioner Myers added that an agreement has been reached with Rotherham College to site a higher education campus on land owned by the Council at Doncaster Gate.

The deal sees the Council offering the transfer of the Freehold/Long Lease interest to Rotherham College at 50% of its Full Market Value. For a long lease this will be payment up front of a premium sum and a nominal £50 per annum thereafter.

A decision on the future of Forge Island was deferred this week in order that further investigations and information could be received.

Images: LDA Design

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