“£9m must be spent on what Wath needs” say residents

CONSULTATION on plans to spend £9 million on Wath town centre is to be extended following concern from residents.
CONSULTATION: Wath town centreCONSULTATION: Wath town centre
CONSULTATION: Wath town centre

They say it is vital the Levelling-up cash is spent on improvements that “will really benefit Wath” and that their views are heard by councillors.

A concerned resident said the investment was “good news” but initial plans for a three-hour consultation wouldn’t have given many people the opportunity to look at the proposals, which include the demolition of the existing library and building of a new one, public realm work.and connectivity improvements between Biscay Way and the High Street to encourage visitors to the town centre.

The public event at Wath Library will now take place throughout the day on October 11.

The resident said he wasn’t necessarily opposed to the plans – and the investment was “good news” – but added: “Wath doesn’t really get this money spent on it so it needs to be done right. As a town it is struggling and we need to really benefit from this.

“A three-hour consultation event would have meant a lot of people with work and family commitments would not have been able to have their views heard and it’s vital that as many people are listened to as possible.

“Meetings should happen when more people might be available to attend them. We could otherwise end up with a £9m project that does not reflect the wants and needs of the community.”

A Wath business owner said the scheme must restore the cultural heart of the town centre, increase footfall and boost the local economy, but decisions had been made based only on the views of ward councillors and MP John Healey.

“Shouldn’t consultation take place before development plans are drawn up? I fear this could be yet another of those developments that is so far down the line before the public are asked what they think that it just gets waved through,” he added.

A report to Rotherham Council cabinet in July said the government had allocated £19,990,111 in respect of its Levelling-up bid, £8,940,564 of which would be spent in Wath, the rest on developing Dinnington High Street.

Strategic regeneration manager Lorna Vertigan said in the report: “Project options were developed in consultation with ward members and the MP for Wentworth & Dearne in the run up to the bid submission in June 2022.”

A survey was also distributed in Wath prior to the original funding bid in 2021 and the council said the plan was to hold the consultation event at an earlier time in the day as this was when the High Street tended to be busier on market days, but it would now be extended into the evening.

Project development including design, surveys and public engagement is currently taking place and a further report detailing how the scheme will be implemented will be presented to Cabinet in February 2024.

Although Rotherham Council was denied twice – once in June 2021 and then again in June 2022 – when it submitted a bid for the central government’s Levelling Up funds, earlier this year proposals were identified as one of 16 to receive £200m additional funding for “left-behind places and in recognition of the high-quality bid submitted”.