CRUSADING traders are demanding that the former All Saints’ Building site is transformed into a town centre green space—sooner rather than later.
They have called on Rotherham Borough Council to scrap immediately the hoardings that currently surround the site, which are due to be used for advertising for the next 12 months.
Hundreds of signatures have been collected in town centre stores on a petition calling for the site to be brought back into use as soon as possible, but the authority has said that there will be no progress until at least the autumn.
This is because the site is currently being used as a compound for the building works at the Minster Yard.
Anthony Swann, a partner at The Ring Shop on Corporation Street, said: “There’s no getting away from the fact that customers are disenchanted with Rotherham town centre, so we need to do all we can to get the shoppers in.
“My concern, speaking for the embryonic businesses like the ones at Imperial, is that they need all the help they can get at a difficult time.
“And there’s nothing that puts people off more than building work. It causes so much disruption and discontent.
“I know people say you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. But I’m starting to wonder if the people in charge can cook.”
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More than 300 people backed the petition in its first few days.
Peter Bird, who runs Peter Bird Hair Salons on Corporation Street and Wellgate, said this was a chance to add a “wow” factor to the town centre.
“The old Lloyds building would make a lovely cafe, with people spilling out onto a grassed area. “We could even have businesses sponsoring parts of it, which would be far better than having adverts on hoardings there, blocking out people’s businesses,” he added.
“It’s a golden opportunity to make Rotherham’s town centre look fabulous and be one of the best in Yorkshire. We’ve got the potential here to add a fantastic ‘wow’ factor, for a fraction of the cost of the Town Hall refurb.”
Andy Birks, owner of Andrew’s Butchers, added: “We shouldn’t have to lobby them to do the basic functions of a council.
“Here, we’ve got a beautiful minster and they’ve stuck hoardings in front of it turning the place into a mess.
“We’re not Tesco here. My house is on the line for this business.”
Keith Topliss, from Craft Corner in Riverside Precinct, said: “In an ideal world, the site would have new fully-used shop units.
“But we know that funding has dried up because of the credit crunch and everything and the feeling now is that we’re all happy to see it turned into a public space.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Our aspiration for this space is a high quality public realm scheme. A business plan has been submitted to Yorkshire Forward, but the funding still needs to be granted.
“It is now in the Yorkshire Forward decision-making process, and we cannot say how long this will take.
“The area is currently being used as a compound for works at the minster, which are scheduled to be completed in the autumn.”
£700,000 All Saints' site project under way. Click here.