Extra steel goes into town revival strategy

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A LONG-RUNNING scheme to revive the centre of Stocksbridge is being given added steel.

City councillors were expected yesterday (Wednesday) to throw more weight behind plans for shops, offices and houses and to reinforce steel production in the valley bottom.

They are preparing to use their powers to help buy land and to support an application for European funds.

The council wants to help the steel town recover from series of economic blows and to make the centre more attractive, so that shoppers do not feel the need to travel to places such as Hillsborough, Chapeltown and Penistone.

Stocksbridge Regeneration Company has been created by Dransfield Properties and Gallagher Developments to realise the ambitions, working with the city council and town council, the business community and other local organisations.

It is looking to build 139 homes, offices, a supermarket and other shops alongside new investment in the Tata steel plant, formerly Corus.

City council officer John Bownes says: “The Stocksbridge economy has faced some uncertainties in the last few years.

“Outokumpu has ceased steel production in the town and Tata, until recently, has faced difficulties through the recession but is now making new investment in its operations there.”

One of the town’s problems is that there is “considerable leakage” of shoppers to other district centres, the council’s cabinet is being told.

Mr Bownes adds: “The proposed development will reinforce Tata’s steel manufacturing activity at Stocksbridge. The office development will diversify the local economy.

“These, together with the proposed retail development, will bring jobs to and retain spend within the town. The new housing will improve the attractiveness of Stocksbridge as a place to live.”

Already some progress has been made with key landowners so that a land package can be pulled together.

There are 15 separate land holdings, with Tata and Outokumpu being the largest.

The city council is pledging to use “all powers if appropriate”, including compulsory purchase, to secure the land assembly to deliver the project and to support in principle a grant application to the European Regional Development Fund.

Meanwhile, Stocksbridge Regeneration Company is negotiating with the Government’s Highways Agency on access to the Stocksbridge bypass.

Plans date back four years, with public consultation exercises to keep the community informed and to gauge reaction to the emerging proposals, which has been largely positive.