Hundreds of new homes could be built on vacant Rotherham sites

Two large housing sites in Rotherham could be on the market before the end of January after standing vacant for years after a redevelopment plan hatched in 2013 stalled before any progress had been made.

The Whinney Hill and Chesterhill areas had old council housing which was cleared before Rotherham Council came up with an agreement in 2014 to develop the land for fresh homes, in conjunction with business partner Keepmoat.

However that scheme never got off the ground and a break-point passed in 2017, meaning the council is now free to find an alternative way to get new homes on the sites, which are expected to accommodate 240 properties in total.

Members of the ruling Cabinet will be given several options when they meet on January 21 and are being recommended to approve the land is sold on the open market, a simpler process than the council remaining involved in the project.

If they approve, it is anticipated the sites will be marketed immediately, with an eight week opportunity for potential buyers to show an interest – though it will be stipulated there is an expectation of high quality family housing and accommodation for older people making up developments on the sites.

It is likely that potential buyers would want planning permission in place for redevelopment before going ahead with a purchase, councillors have been told in a report.

If the sites are sold, it is also expected conditions will be written into the contract to ensure early progress is made on redeveloping the sites.

A report to Cabinet members states: “These sites can together deliver approximately 240 homes which would make a significant contribution to Rotherham’s housing growth target.

“It is essential that work starts as soon as possible as local communities are understandably frustrated at the lack of visible progress over the past five years, and the antisocial behaviour that has been attracted by these large, vacant sites.

“The development of the sites will help to regenerate the area, providing a range of tenures to meet various housing needs and high quality new homes.”

If the sale goes ahead, it is expected an open meeting will be arranged for residents in the area, so the future of the sites can be better explained and questions answered.

The slow progress in moving redevelopment of the sites forwards has previously been questioned by political activist Michael Sylvester, who lives in the district and campaigns for improved conditions for local communities.

He said the loss of residents from those areas had left businesses and other community facilities struggling because of a lack of residents to use them.