TOWN centre businesses feel a lack of support from Rotherham Council, the Advertiser understands - at a time when coronavirus is set to quicken the shift away from traditional retail.
RMBC says its moves to build homes and leisure facilities show it moving in the right direction to cater for the changed future demand.
But frustration remains at the pace of development, which some fear will be overtaken by the pandemic and subsequent fallout.
The target opening date for the Forge Island cinema and hotel was summer 2019 when the masterplan launched in 2016 \_ but planning permission was only granted six weeks ago.
Council leader Cllr Chris Read was asked at last week’s full council meeting how Covid-19 would affect the town centre.
He said: “It’s quite early days to judge the long-term effects of the outbreak but the early indications suggest that it will further hasten the decline in traditional shop-based retail and potentially also traditional office accommodation, thus making it more important that town centres are places where people can live and engage in leisure activities.
“That’s the general direction of travel for the Rotherham town centre masterplan, so the early indications are that we are setting off in the right direction.”
The Advertiser understands that several traders were frustrated after the town centre sub-group meeting held between businesses and RMBC online last week.
A source said: “There’s a lot of ticked-off people at the moment.
“I think they are feeling absolutely fed up with years and years of suggesting things to the council but nothing coming back.”
McDonald’s franchisee Franco Ventura, who reopened on Bridgegate for takeaway and delivery last Wednesday, said: “It was a short sub group meeting with not much on the agenda, and not much agreed or done.
“That’s become normal and I don’t know if there’s any appetite from the council in any way to change that.
“But I think it’s an important forum for traders. From my personal point of view, I will participate while ever I feel that I’m contributing.”
Sub group chairman Steve Morris, from Signs Express, said: “There are buildings going up and coming down, building is going ahead for Forge Island, which is exciting.
“The fact that there’s a lot going on speaks for itself.”
Cllr Denise Lelliott said: “How can you walk around the town centre and say nothing is happening? It’s going to be stunning. I already think it is.
“We have done or are doing everything we said we would in the masterplan, with the higher education campus, the markets, the law courts, the library.
“With the council, it’s not like a business, we have a procurement process to go through. I don’t see what more we could have done.”
She added: “We’re just coming out of lockdown and virtual meetings are not the same. But the sub group has had a big influence all the way along.”