Wednesday, March 6, 2019

News: Over 25% of floorspace in Rotherham town centre empty


Over a quarter of floorspace in Rotherham town centre has been recorded as vacant, exceeding Rotherham Council's target despite the authority changing the way the key figure is measured.

The national retail landscape and the wait for the important regeneration projects in the masterplan to be built are two key contributing factors.

Rotherham Council records the figure as part of its Council Plan to see how it is delivering against its priorities. A key partnership goal is to create a vibrant town centre where people want to visit, shop and socialise.

The percentage of vacant floorspace has been steadily increasing for the last year, rising from 18.4% to around 23%. For the third quarter of 2018 - 19 (October - December 2018) the figure hit 25.8%, passing the Council target of 25% for the first time.

The authority explained that there were currently "very difficult trading conditions for town centre businesses, especially retail" and said that it would be submitting a bid to the Government's High Street Fund, a fund of £650m to aid the regeneration of town centres.

An update to councillors also said that the delivery of the Town Centre Masterplan is key. Progress is being made on the leisure-led regeneration project at Forge Island where a proposed cinema, hotel and new bars and restaurants are set to be a catalyst in reviving the town centre and continuing the move away from retail uses.

The masterplan focuses on growing leisure and residential uses rather than retail.

Public realm elements of the plan are currently being consulted on and amongst Council budget cuts, councillors recently approved a proposal to extend free weekend parking to Wellgate multi-storey and Drummond Street meaning that there will be 1,000 free council car parking spaces in the town centre every Saturday throughout the year.


Rotherham Council recently changed the way it calculated the floorspace vacancy figures stating that: "Following adoption of the Local Plan Sites and Policies document a revised approach to monitoring vacancies in town centres has been introduced.

"This approach continues to monitor vacancies at ground floor level but excludes derelict buildings or buildings which are unoccupied and where redevelopment is expected to take place within a reasonable period of time. This approach reflects the fact that these premises are not available to come back into use within a reasonable period of time and as such more accurately identifies where units are vacant (and could come back into use) as opposed to being unavailable."

One such example is the floorspace at Westgate Chambers which is wrapped in hoardings to enable a multimillion pound revamp to take place.

For the second quarter of 2018 - 19 (July - September 2018), the percentage of vacant floorspace was recorded at 16% but this has been revised to 21.5% with the "return to previous definition of Town Centre."

Rotherham Council has also stopped publishing the figures for aggregate footfall in the town centre, which, in less than two years, dropped by two million.

The authority also no longer publishes the percentage of total vacant units in the town centre. Recent analysis by The Guardian showed that Rotherham lost 17.1% of its shops since 2013.

Instead, the Council records the net new business opening in the town centre during each quarter. Q1 saw one net new opening whilst Q2 saw a loss of six businesses. In Q3, seven businesses opened whilst two closed.

Closures include independent traders Ahan Dee and The Sweet Escape on the High Street as well as national retailers such as Bargain Buys. Openings include Lollipop Tots under 5's play area and A Million-Hair in The Old Town Hall. Work is currently being carried out on Papa John's on Wellgate.

Rothbiz reported recently on changes on the High Street where new uses have already been found for when Hamby's prepares to move out.

Kuppa 7 Cocktails is also opening in the town centre as the latest venture from the group behind the 1915 bar. A new speakeasy style bar is also in the works but this is secret...

Images: Allsops


Anonymous,  March 7, 2019 at 11:12 AM  

You might add Rhinos onto the list,It’s up for sale. If weatherspoons can’t make a go of it what chance has anyone else!

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