Major housing development scheme has stalled, Rotherham Council leader admits

Answers: Campaigner Michael Sylvester wants an investigation into a decade long delay in regenerating housing sites.
Answers: Campaigner Michael Sylvester wants an investigation into a decade long delay in regenerating housing sites.
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Redevelopment plans which should have seen construction start on hundreds of new homes in Rotherham two years ago have fallen through, the council has admitted, though work is now planned to begin next year.

It is now more than a decade since homes on the Whinney Hill and Chesterhill Avenue areas of Dalton were demolished and the council entered negotiations to replace them with developers Keepmoat, in a scheme which would have created 260 new houses, including 15 council homes.

A start date of 2016 was advertised on Rotherham Council’s website, but the development never happened and now council leader Chris Read has admitted a deal with Keepmoat could not be agreed, with council staff now looking for a new development partner to push the project forwards.

That process should allow for work to start next year, he has told local campaigner Michael Sylvester, who raised a question at a recent council Cabinet meeting about why the work had not moved forwards.

However, Mr Sylvester is now asking the council to instigate a process where the reasons for the lengthy delays – which he says have affected businesses and the community in the area – should be investigated and explained.

Coun Read offered to write to Mr Sylvester after the Cabinet meeting and in his letter he told him: “Unfortunately, despite extensive negotiations and a significant amount of time and effort invested by both parties, this has not resulted in a development scheme.

“I share your frustration at the lack of progress. These are strategically important sites and will make a significant contribution to the borough’s housing growth target.

“The council cannot afford to leave them undeveloped. Prior to the recent Cabinet meeting officers had already taken the decision to launch a new procurement exercise to find a developer partner to start afresh on the sites.

“It is expected work will start next year. I appreciate work has taken longer than we would have hoped but I am assured that the necessary actions to move the development along are being taken and I hope that this means residents will soon see progress on this site.”

However, Mr Sylvester is not happy with the response and has written back asking that the extent of the delays should be investigated by the council’s Improving Places Select Committee.

His response to Coun Read states: “The local community had raised expectations of development in the run up to the last local election, based on council publicity and the now removed online story on the council website that gave extensive development details and an expected start date in 2016.”

He is also asking if the council is able to offer additional help and support to businesses in the area which have been affected by the longstanding loss of trade as a result of the loss of so many homes, particularly as the district is affected by deprivation.