Thursday, February 23, 2017

News: Rotherham moving forward


Rotherham and its economy is moving in the right direction with more business starts and jobs created over the last year.

And there are positive signs for the future as significant progress has been made on key initiatives such as the development at Pit House West, the continued regeneration of the town centre and around the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).

The positive picture is provided by an update on the borough's growth plan, the live document with ambitious targets to help deliver 10,000 new private sector jobs in Rotherham over the next ten years.

Signed off in 2015 and developed by the Council's economic development team, the plan is a partnership between the public, voluntary and private sectors and focuses on the main themes of growing businesses, skills, employment and inclusion, employment land, housing, the town centre and transport.

The vision is based on "creating an economy in which business will prosper and local residents will have the enterprise and employment opportunities which reflect their ambitions and skills."

Other main aims of the Rotherham Growth Plan are to help create 750 additional new businesses over the next five years and to increase gross value added (GVA), a measure in economics of the value of goods and services produced in an area, for the Rotherham economy.

Indicators and statistics on the economy can be volatile but an update from the council's regeneration arm, RiDO highlighted that the number of Rotherham-based jobs has increased by 2,000, going from 98,000 in 2014 to 100,000 in 2015 - a return to pre-recession levels.

The number of businesses has also seen a large rise, from 6,390 to 6,810 over the year. A 420 rise is likely to be linked to more people working on a contract or a self-employed basis.


On skills, where the borough lags behind on national and regional levels, more residents are attaining higher level skills and the number of people starting an apprenticeship in a year has gone from 1,889 to 2,500. In addition, the employment rate is up and the unemployment rate is down. The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were in work has risen from 67.4% in 2015 to 70.7% in 2016.

The aim now is to ensure that these indicators continue on an upward trend. Areas for intervention include addressing vacancy rates in the town centre where 23 units (15.5%) were recorded as empty in 2016, an increase from 13.7% the previous year.

Tim O'Connell, business investment manager at RiDO, said: "It is a positive story to tell but there are still areas that we want to improve on. We are still not at the level we want to be. Our aim is to close down the gap on the national average but it would be far better if we were looking to move beyond the national average and be one of the better performing locations in the UK.

"Generally the stats are showing some good progress after a year, what we need to see is sustained improvement over a number of years. But as a progress report on the first year, I would say that it is moving forward in the right way."
The update includes the progress made on key projects. These include:

- £12m Higher Education Campus, including £3.5m for the RNN Group from the Sheffield city region skills capital fund for the Higher Education Campus at Doncaster Gate
- £50m luxury supercar manufacturer McLaren chassis factory at the AMP - creating 200 jobs
- £50m retail and leisure development at Waverley in the Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation District to include a hotel, shops, restaurants and a new town square, with links to the Advanced Manufacturing Park and a transport hub to central Rotherham
- Multi-million leisure development on Forge Island
- £6.8m for affordable housing developments and a portion of the Government's £1.2 billion Starter Homes initiative, to help first time buyers into home ownership.
- £1.1m for road improvements near Wales to enable growth in the area around the successful Vector 31 industrial park, including £759,000 from Sheffield City Region Combined Authority
- £12m refurbishment scheme at Rotherham Interchange car park, together with improvements to the bus station


Cllr. Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said: "These projects are part of a detailed, aspirational plan and we need to make sure we deliver on them. We have been determined to gain the full benefits of working within the Sheffield City Region and we are now starting to see funding coming into Rotherham.

"We are in a very strong position and it's now an excellent time to look towards the next stage of growth, and to achieving our ambition to create thousands of jobs across the borough."

RiDO website

Images: Visit Rotherham / McLaren


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