Tuesday, January 17, 2023

News: Rotherham Council acquires former Wilkos store


Another large empty retail store in the town centre is in the ownership of Rotherham Council and is set to be demolished.

Rothbiz revealed last month that the authority had applied to knock down the former Wilkinson's Store on Corporation Street and that the site had been earmarked as the potential location for a new theatre.

The move mirrors that on High Street when the council acquired the empty former Primark store in 2020 so that it could be demolished to make way for a temporary pocket park before a potential longer term use for new housing. The delayed park remains unfinished.

Regeneration plans are coming together for the Corporation Street area of town where the Council wants to see the Leisure & Cultural Quarter extended from the Forge Island scheme where work recently got underway.

The 20,423 sq ft property was vacated by the value general merchandise retailer at the start of 2022. It sits alongside the former Riverside Precinct and Chantry Buildings - again acquired and demolished by the council as part of regerenation works - and the former Mecca Bingo, another authority acquisition "that will contribute to the further regeneration of the Leisure & Cultural Quarter."

The price paid by the authority has not been disclosed. The lot was sold prior to going to auction in September 2022 where it was given a guide price of £350,000+.

For the former Wilkos, council planners have now approved the method of demolition and restoration of the site.

A planning report confirms that the property is in the Council’s ownership and states: "The application proposes the demolition of the building to facilitate the future redevelopment of the site as part of the Council’s Town Centre Regeneration aspirations. It is envisaged that the demolition of the building will enhance the Cultural & Leisure Quarter, which is currently being built at Forge Island and this site has been earmarked as the preferred option for a new theatre.

"The demolition of the building and remediation of the site is viewed as enabling works for this future redevelopment. In the short term it would allow the site to be used as a compound for the main construction works in this locality coming forward in 2023/24.

"The current proposed restoration of the site is considered acceptable as it will allow for the site to be used in the future for development to meet the Council’s Town Centre Regeneration aspirations."

Early draft plans for the wider Corporation Street area produced for the Council and illustrative only, appear to show a single building on the site, hinting at the Grade II listed former bingo hall and cinema being extended along Corporation Street.

This potential sizeable new theatre building would extend to the new open area called "Millgate Place" being created as part of the Forge Island development which includes a new footbridge and 1,500 sq ft café.

Rothbiz has previously reported on the council's considerations for a new theatre and arts space in Rotherham town centre.

The draft plans also show a separate smaller building on the bingo hall's car park.

Images: Google Maps / RMBC


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