£8m for levelling up country parks

Plans are progressing for £8m of improvements at two country parks in Rotherham, including one of Yorkshire’s Hidden Gems – Rother Valley Country Park.

Two of the three bids from Rotherham were successful in securing money from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund last year. £19.9m was awarded for a number of connected projects which aim to build a new leisure industry that responds to the challenges of economic recovery and health and well-being.

At Rother Valley Country Park, the idea is to create a new “Village Centre” with new waterfront buildings, a cycle hub and improved car parking.

Operated by Rotherham Council, the park opened in 1983 following the restoration of an opencast mining site.

Draft plans submitted to the Council, drawn up by AHR Architects, show a “New Waterfront Building featuring a cafe and play area with increased seating capacity and first floor events space with views across the lake” for land currently used to store boats. The car park between the new building and the existing activity centre is set to be turned into a landscaped waterside area.

Boat storage would move to south of the activity centre where the “beach” will also be extended.

South of the existing courtyard, the bungalow is shown to be demolished in order to relocate the Cycle Hub and associated storage to this area.

Improvements are also planned for the parking to the north of the village and there is a planned relocation of parking away from the centre of the site to the area on Pithouse Lane currently earmarked for coach parking.

The disused play area, which was privately operated but has not reopened since the COVID-19 pandemic, looks unlikely to reopen and plans show that it is set to be utilised for a Ranger’s Storage Compound.

When the Levelling Up bid was submitted, the project cost for Rother Valley was £5.5m.

At Thrybergh Country Park immediate upgrades include a new café and public realm improvements. AHR Architects have also drawn up plans for the site showing the cafe, waterside landscaping, wider accress roads and a new entrance kiosk.

Also operated by the council, Thrybergh is a 60 acre country park set around a beautiful reservoir.

When the Levelling Up bid was submitted, the project cost for Thrybergh was £2.5m. Looking ahead, long-term proposals for the Thrybergh Country Park Masterplan are also in development.

Rotherham’s Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Cllr David Sheppard, said: “Our parks and green spaces are one of the great things about our borough, and we want to ensure that this funding makes our country parks even better for the people that use them.

“We want to help local people get the full economic benefits too, so it’s important to me that there will be chances for people to access training and gain new skills to improve their career opportunities as part of our investment plans.”