Development chiefs in Rotherham are so desperate to moved ahead with plans to redevelop the Forge Island area of the town centre they are to short circuit the process of selecting a developer to work with the local authority.
The council has been told by consultants who carried out “soft market testing” that market conditions are positive at the moment and the council wants to press ahead with the work before there is any opportunity for that to change, which could potentially affect the scheme.
Rotherham Council decided in the Autumn to go ahead with the redevelopment of the area, which includes the sites of the old magistrates court and Tesco store and it has set aside £17m to support the work.
But it also needs a private developer to work on the scheme and the process of selecting the most suitable company is now moving forwards.
That will be done through delegated powers, by council officials rather than going to the ruling Cabinet and full council for approval in a move which should speed up the process.
However, councillors have been assured there will be full accountability and the chance for the decision to be examined under the authority’s ‘scrutiny’ arrangements.
Council officer Damien Wilson told councillors: “We need to sustain the pace, there is a degree of fragility in the retail sector.
“We need to consider how quickly we can develop our plan to take advantage of the market while it is strong.”
A report to the Cabinet warned that the site is at risk of flooding and flood alleviation work will be needed to protect it as the new leisure and retail area emerges.
Costs for that work would not be regarded as normal expenses by developers, however, which would have an impact on how the site was valued.