September the 8th, 2009
Dear Mr Battersby, Rotherham Town Centre Draft Public Realm Strategy
I thank you for your letter, dated the 9th January 2009, regarding the above.
The Society very much welcomes your positive response with regard to the Market Street / Domine Lane setts, and the proposal for a canopy along Effingham Street. Your letter appears to imply a canopy on both sides of the street, and your comment that such works should be considered when redevelopment of these areas is scheduled seems sensible in relation to the western side of the street. This is particularly logical when one considers the variety of building types and storey heights.
However, the eastern (H. Samuel) side of the street is very different having been built within fairly strict parameters laid down by the former Rotherham Corporation in various Parliamentary Acts passed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Society would suggest that any possible redevelopment of this side may well be beyond the period of the Rotherham Renaissance programme. Moreover, such redevelopment might be opposed by conservation interests as it was in 1980 when strong opposition was mounted to F.W. Wool worth & Go's proposed redevelopment of the Old College Inn site. In these circumstances, and given the need to revitalise this area now, rather than at some distant redevelopment date, would it not be possible for this canopy to be accorded a high priority in the phasing of the public realm works?
With respect to your comments on the Red Lion Yard, the Society welcomes the fact that a Project Officer has been assigned to look at this area. However, your inclusion of the word 'unfortunately' to describe its increased pedestrian usage seems a little misplaced. As regards the Red Lion Association you refer to its members being the property owners adjoining the Yard but omit to mention that the Borough Council is in fact one of the owners, and is surely in a perfect position to take the lead.
The Society wonders whether in resurfacing the Yard as a gift to the property owners the Council was acting in an ultra vires manner, and in what position the Authority would be placed in the event of someone tripping or falling within the confines of the Yard. Surely there is a case to be made, with the Red Lion Public House coming back into use and the increased footfall generated by the 'Pantry Green' cafe, for the situation to be regularised with the Yard being formally adopted as public highway and upgraded to the public realm standard envisaged elsewhere in the Town Centre.
Apart from the Townscape Heritage Initiative, the Rotherham Renaissance seems to the outsider to be focussed on the re-use or redevelopment of Council owned property. This is true of both the Iliad projects and the TCN Northern exclusivity agreement. The irony of this approach is that on a basic rational analysis of age and condition many of the Council buildings are above average for the town centre. The Society hope that privately owned property such as the derelict Cinema House on Doncaster Gate, and selective redevelopment of the Effingham Street properties (west side), building on the suggested improvements to Red Lion Yard, will be considered within the period of the Renaissance programme.