Bid to move forward major Doncaster regeneration plans

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Doncaster Council is hoping to put a number of high profile development projects on fast forward to help transform the centre of the town.

It is pulling out of a deal with developer Muse to try to proceed with major schemes itself, potentially including a cinema in the town centre, and the transformation of the former Doncaster Girls’ High School.

Doncaster High School for Girls site, Chequer Road, Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Former Girls School MC 1

Doncaster High School for Girls site, Chequer Road, Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Former Girls School MC 1

The borough’s cabinet has given the green light to plans which would see the authority take back control of projects which had been covered previously by a deal Muse. The deal previously led to the development of the Civic Building, Cast theatre and Sir Nigel Gresley Square.

The council wants to start a number of projects which Muse has not felt able to move forward, because of the economic climate.

The authority recently announced plans to develop land at Doncaster Lakeside called the Herten Triangle, after the scheme had stalled, by moving the scheme forward itself.

It is now looking at a similar plan for several sites covered under the arrangement it had with Muse.

Copley House, Waterdale, Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Former Copley House MC 2

Copley House, Waterdale, Doncaster. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP Former Copley House MC 2

Mayor Ros Jones said: “The development agreement with Muse was signed back in 2009 and it has delivered some good outcomes for Doncaster, making an important contribution to regeneration of the town centre. The Waterdale area particularly has seen some excellent new developments including our fantastic theatre Cast, a new civic square, civic offices, redevelopment of the multi-storey car park and new housing at The Gables. Unfortunately the agreement also coincided with the economic downturn, and not all of the outcomes anticipated in the original agreement were delivered. This includes a number of sites that the council still wishes to see developed, such as at the civic quarter and the old girls school site.

“When I was re-elected, I promised to drive forward further regeneration of Doncaster town centre in line with our new masterplan. The current agreement was due to last until 2019, but by mutually agreeing to vary the development agreement now, it gives the council the opportunity to explore alternative ways of bringing forward these sites, to help drive forward our plans for the town centre and the economy of our borough.”

The deal included sites which were expected to be underway by now but are yet to be started.

The council now believes it means it will be able to move forward on schemes including the Waterdale cinema project, which is due to be built next to Sir Nigel Gresley Square.

Council director of finance and corporate services, Simon Wiles said: “There are a number of benefits for the council, mainly freeing up sites for the council to pursue developments on early, maximising on the economic /cost benefits. The original phased timescales suggest that almost all of the remaining sites should now be underway, however due to the economic downturn and other factors some sites and later phases have not been developed.

“These include the former Council House site, the former girls’ school, Scarborough House, the Council staff car park, Copley House, the west side of the Civic Square, sites at Lakeside and the Waterfront. With Muse’s options on the remaining sites this has recently constrained the ability of the council to bring forward other development opportunities that were not envisaged or viable under the original development agreement.”

The council announced a town centre masterplan last year, to redevelop sites around Doncaster Station and the market, and other sites.

Mr Wiles said: “The council views that in the current market conditions that it will be better placed to progress some of these sites. Muse has already progressed most of what it can over the last eight years. This enables the council to bring forward inward investment to further the development of the borough, stimulating economic growth and regeneration within the heart of Doncaster.”

A Muse spokesman said: “Muse has been working in partnership with Doncaster Council since 2009 to deliver the Civic and Cultural Quarter, a multi award-winning and place-changing development which has significantly contributed to the regeneration of the town centre. The scheme has delivered over £60 million of inward investment including new civic offices, the ‘Cast’ performance venue, an extensive public square, a refurbished multi-story car park and 105 new homes, with another 43 under construction. We are extremely proud of what the partnership has achieved over the past eight years.

“The original development agreement was conceived in a fundamentally different marketplace when both parties’ aspirations were better aligned. Rather than continue to work within a framework that is no longer fit for its original purpose, we have jointly decided to annul the relationship.”