Pit-site office development plan fails to win officials' approval

A MULTI-million pound development of Government offices on the former Orgreave colliery site, on the Rotherham-Sheffield border, is set to be opposed by Sheffield Council.

Planning bosses say they have no objection to the plans for a new town with almost 4,000 homes on the Waverley site, which have been submitted by UK Coal's housing arm, Harworth Estates.

But they say the proposals for 60,000 sq m of office space as part of the new development are against planning policy, and alternative sites could instead be found in Sheffield city centre.

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The city is already home to a number of Government offices, including the Department for Work and Pensions at Moorfoot, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which is shortly to move to 1 St Pauls, the Home Office at Riverside Exchange and both the Inland Revenue and University for Industry at St Mary's Square.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Sheffield's councillors will be urged by city planners to call on Rotherham Council to refuse planning permission for the Government offices.

The council will also be recommended, however, to back the adjoining new town development. A decision on both aspects of the Waverley scheme is set to be made by Rotherham Council's planning committee at a meeting next Monday.

Les Sturch, director of development services at Sheffield Council, said: "There is no strong case that the Government office space that would be accommodated here could not also be accommodated on a number of city or town centre sites.

"If an out-of-centre office development of this scale, accommodating public sector offices were to be approved, I believe it would be very difficult to ignore private-sector pressure for similar developments.

"In my view, the public sector should be setting an example and supporting its own policy for major in-centre office development."

The plans, which have been submitted by Helical Governetz under the name Highfield Commercial, are described by Mr Sturch as "a speculative out-of-centre office development which is contrary to national and regional planning policies".

In terms of the new town plans, Mr Sturch said that Waverley was needed to meet Sheffield and Rotherham's forecast housing land requirements over the next 15 to 20 years.

He said: "Waverley, as a previously developed site, meets Government advice that brownfield sites should be prioritised for new housing development."

The new town proposals involve 3,950 houses of varying types and sizes, two primary schools, small shops, a food store, pubs, restaurants, a transport interchange with a park and ride facility and open space, including a woodland and lakes.

Harworth Estates says a quarter of the proposed houses and flats are to be affordable housing, including a mix of rented and shared-ownership units.

A dedicated website set up by Harworth Estates and UK Coal says that the planned development at Waverley will "transform a disused and reclaimed industrial brownfield site in the heart of South Yorkshire into a thriving new community".

It adds: " Its completion over the next 20 years will create a bustling town of 9,000 people, living in a green and pleasant lakeside community.

"The landscape of the new community will incorporate everything from woodland and parkland to contemporary urban squares and boulevards, as well as a Continental-style waterfront promenade, shopping areas, restaurants and even a lakeside beach – right in the heart of Yorkshire."