Major investment transforming town despite economic uncertainty

Dame Rosie Winterton (right) showed support for local industry when she visited Hitachi Rails Doncaster depot. Pictured with the depot manager, Glyn France.
Dame Rosie Winterton (right) showed support for local industry when she visited Hitachi Rails Doncaster depot. Pictured with the depot manager, Glyn France.
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The lack of a devolution deal and Brexit uncertainty are failing to stop investment in a string of major development schemes transforming Doncaster.

In the first six months of the current financial year, £125m worth of projects have been delivered in the town, creating some 700 jobs.

This compares to £90.5m for the previous whole year and the creation of 894 jobs.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Scott Cardwell, assistant director of development at Doncaster Council, said: “We have got so many regeneration projects going on at the moment which are changing the face of Doncaster. Our time is very much now and we are trying to take advantage of it.”

Rail and logistics developments have dominated recent investments.

Verdion’s £500m iPort is progressing rapidly, including a newly-completed £100m warehouse for Amazon.

Meanwhile, Hitachi Rail Europe opened its £80m Doncaster depot in September and the £25m Doncaster campus of the National College for High Speed Rail, supported by Doncaster Council, was opened by Secretary of State for Education Justine Greening last month.

There is a mass of projects in the pipeline too. Over half of Sheffield City Region’s infrastructure funding is lined up to be spent in Doncaster.

Future plans for the town include freight, housing and logistics developments across Doncaster Sheffield Airport’s 1,600 acre site.

Meanwhile, the council has turned developer after pulling out of a deal with Muse to try to proceed with a number of major schemes in the town centre itself. Earlier this year it unveiled its Doncaster Urban Centre masterplan.

Schemes include refurbishing and modernising The Colonnades building and The Wool Market, as well as creating a new cinema, £14m combined library and museum building, and a new train station forecourt.

In addition, Yorkshire Wildlife Park recently announced plans for a £50m expansion and 300 jobs, and planning permission has been granted for the Unity project, off junction 5 of the M18, which will create 3,100 houses and 41 hectares of employment land.

Major transport infrastructure improvements are also underway.

Rachel Clark, director of trade and investment at Sheffield City Region, said: “A lot of things seem to have come into alignment at the same time in Doncaster, which have led to some real momentum in the town.”

Despite Doncaster withdrawing its support for a Sheffield City Region devolution deal and the wider uncertainty surrounding Brexit, development is continuing apace.

“People ask us all the time about devolution and Brexit and we are hoping it doesn’t have any impact on future development,” said Ms Clark. “There is still a lot of investment coming in. It could have slowed the decision-making process down a bit but we’ve not seen a direct impact so far.”

She added: “From our point of view, we are focusing on growing key sites, such as Doncaster Sheffield Airport. It’s exciting to see what will happen there.”

Developments in Doncaster are also boosting local businesses. “We are starting to see more companies investing in expansion,” said Mr Cardwell.

Creative agency Moirae has just moved to new larger premises. Most of its client base is made up of Doncaster-based businesses. Simon Lewis, sales and marketing manager, said: “The development of the iPort and introduction of new office space is very welcome as it will attract new businesses to the region.”