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Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Thursday, 19 August 2010 16:35 UK
South Yorkshire's ex-industrial sites
By Grace Parnell
BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Berris Connolly took this photo of Meadowhall, as seen from one of the derelict buildings, while it was being constructed in 1988
Meadowhall was built in 1988 on the site of one of Sheffield's biggest steel works, Hadfield's

They were the industrial backbone of Britain, and for decades the pits and steelworks of South Yorkshire dominated our landscape. Now they have all but disappeared, taking with them tens of thousands of jobs..

In their place have sprung up nature reserves, business parks and bustling retail centres. It's a remarkable transformation and here we take a look at the new lease of life given to sites which were once the home of heavy industry.


Until the 1980s the Dearne Valley relied almost entirely upon coal-related industries.

One of the largest of those collieries was Manvers Main which incorporated what was at one time the biggest coking plant in Western Europe.

When the Dearne Valley coalfields closed during the 1980s and 90s, the government invested £68 million of public money into a regeneration programme to turn the Manvers area into a business park.

Manvers Way Business Park in the Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire
Manvers Colliery in the Dearne Valley closed in 1988. It was regenerated with 68 million of public money and has become a successful venture

Manvers Way Business Park has drawn £425 million from the private sector and produced 9,590 jobs in both large and small companies. The site, originally managed by the local council, is now run by a private developer in Barnsley.

Clothing giant Next has a long-term contract for a huge distribution centre at Manvers while small, local businesses like graphic design firm Phototype Creative have taken off. The Rotherham Advertiser has also shown its confidence in Manvers by moving its offices there.

Tim O'Connell of Rotherham Investment and Development Office says Manvers was lucky to attract three Korean technology firms to kick-start the development:

"It was a difficult sell in the early days, a huge site with nothing but wind and rain. It was difficult to get people to envisage what it would be like in a few years time but it made it much easier to sell to other businesses once the Korean companies were in."

Rother Valley Country Park

Golf course at Rother Valley Country Park
Slag heaps from the former Brookhouse Colliery now form the hills of a golf course

From 1976 until 1981 an extensive opencast mine was at the 750 acre site of the current Rother Valley Country Park.

A total of 1.7 million tonnes of high quality coal was mined at the Brookhouse Colliery. The plan was to make the land into a park for local people when coal extraction ended, and it was turned over to lakes, habitats and flood control.

Slag heaps from the former colliery now form the hills of a golf course with stunning views across South Yorkshire.

Rother Valley Country Park's regeneration cost £4 million, provided by the Countryside Commission (now the Commission for Rural Communities ), the Sports Council (now Sport England) and local councils in Rotherham , Sheffield and North East Derbyshire .

The old mill and farm buildings were restored. Rother Valley Country Park was formally opened in May 1983 and now sees 750,000 visitors a year. It is a popular venue for wildlife conservation and recreation - particularly water sports.


Richard Stocks photographed this rainbow over Meadowhall
Richard Stocks photographed this rainbow over Meadowhall Shopping Centre

Meadowhall Shopping Centre is on the site of one of Sheffield's biggest and most famous former steelworks, Hadfield's.

In its heyday Hadfield's produced 200,000 tonnes of steel a year and employed 15,000 workers. It had been on the site at Tinsley since 1897 so when it closed in the early 1980s, planners realised that something huge was needed to replace the thousands of jobs lost in the steelworks.

The 1.5 million square foot Meadowhall Shopping Centre is between Sheffield and Rotherham next to the M1 at Tinsley. It opened in September 1990 at a cost of £250 million with its own tram terminus, railway and bus station. An 11 screen cinema was added at Meadowhall in 1993.

Meadowhall has been blamed for the closure of many shops in Sheffield and Rotherham town centres, but it employs 7000 people at peak times and it boasts of:

  • 305 retail units (including 200 independent and national stores)
  • an annual footfall of 25 million
  • £756 million annual customer spend
  • asset value of £1.271 billion (2009 figures)

Meadowhall's owners have secured outline planning for a £300 million commercial and residential development on brown-field land next to the shopping centre.

Rotherham Parkgate

Parkgate, Rotherham
Parkgate in Rotherham is a 562,000 square foot retail park on the site of the old Parkgate Steelworks

Rotherham Parkgate is a 575,000 square foot retail park on the site of the old Parkgate Iron and Steelworks.

Heavy industry had been at Parkgate since the 1800s but demand for metal changed and between 1970 and 1985, the site wound up and closed down.

The retail park is one mile north of Rotherham town centre with rail links and a canal nearby. Its owners boast of their proximity to the M1 (four miles) and the M18 (five miles).

It's a third of the size of Meadowhall but Parkgate has created around 2000 jobs in over 30 shops - although many say at the sacrifice of Rotherham town centre.

Centenary Riverside, Templeborough

Centenary Riverside is a 12.5 acre nature reserve on the site of the old Templeborough steelworks near Magna Science Museum. The site was originally a foundry, known locally as the Seven Sisters.

Centenary Riverside near Templeborough is at the heart of Rotherham's 15 million flood alleviation scheme
Centenary Riverside near Templeborough is on the site of the old Seven Sisters foundry

Centenary Riverside is part of the £2 billion Rotherham Renaissance programme to regenerate the town centre and bring the riverfront back into use. It is a joint venture between Rotherham Council, the Environment Agency and Sheffield Wildlife Trust . A replica of Stone Henge, made of 60 tonne cast iron ingots, stands at the centre of the park.

Centenary Riverside is Sheffield Wildlife Trust's 10th nature reserve and the centre of Rotherham's £15 million flood alleviation scheme. The park doubles as a floodplain for the River Don, in the hope of preventing a a recurrence of the flooding that Rotherham town centre suffered in June 2007. The site can completely fill with rainwater to protect surrounding urban areas.


Police and miners gather outside the coking plant at Orgreave, 18th June 1984
Police and miners gather outside the coking plant at Orgreave, June 1984

Orgreave, a coking plant between Rotherham and Sheffield, was the site of the most violent clash between picketing miners and police during the year-long Miners' Strike in 1984-5.

Five thousand miners gathered outside Orgreave to stop British Steel's coke convoys leaving the plant. They were met by police from ten counties. 41 police officers and 28 strikers were injured in fierce clashes.

In 2010 the government supported plans to develop the former opencast mining land at Orgreave. Rotherham Borough Council is now considering a £100 million project which would see 4000 houses, shops, a hotel, retail and leisure facilities on the 575 acre site of the former opencast mine close to Catcliffe.

Orgreave brownfield site near Sheffield
Rotherham Council is considering plans for 4000 shops, a hotel, retail and leisure facilities on the 230 hectare site

Cllr David Pickering is Chair of Rotherham Planning Board. In 2010 he told BBC Sheffield: "The reclamation of this former opencast mine is almost complete. Lakes have been created for drainage purposes and public access around the site is already available. Now we can look forward to issuing the permission and dealing with future detailed applications."

Across the road from the site of the proposed development is Waverley Advanced Manufacturing Park which boasts of being home to world-class research and manufacturing organisations including Rolls Royce, a Boeing-University of Sheffield partnership, Castings Technology International and Dormer Tools. Wind farms seen from Sheffield Parkway are based close to the manufacturing park.

Potteric Carr nature reserve, Doncaster

Potteric Carr nature reserve, Doncaster
Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's Potteric Carr nature reserve is a couple of miles south-west of Doncaster town centre. It's a 500 acre site of open water, marsh and woodland squeezed between a mainline rail link and the M18

The rail industry developed around Doncaster in the 19th century and railway lines fragmented the land making it hard to farm. Meanwhile coal mined from nearby Rossington Colliery kept traffic on the railway lines very busy.

But as coal mining wound down in the 1980s, the railway lines were used less and less and now the site is Yorkshire Wildlife Trust's flagship nature reserve, Potteric Carr.

Potteric Carr is squeezed between a mainline rail link and the M18 motorway, a couple of miles south-west of Doncaster town centre.

There's a wealth of birdlife, butterflies, amphibians, dragonflies and mammals, a 500 acre site of open water, marsh and woodland.

The railway lines still cross the reserve but visitors can safely cross the tracks to reach the rail-locked part of the reserve.

A flood relief scheme exists at Potteric Carr to protect the nearby residential areas around Doncaster. With 33,000 visitors a year there are plans to increase the nature reserve even further.

Old Moor Wetland Centre, Wath-Upon-Dearne

"An urban landscape teeming with amazing wildlife," says the website for Old Moor RSPB wetland centre in the Dearne Valley.

The RSPB wetland centre at Old Moor is a 275 acre site - a large part of which was used by British Coal to stockpile surplus coal from the nearby colliery.

But the Dearne Valley collieries shut down throughout the 1980s and 90s. In the early 1990s the derelict colliery land was reclaimed and £37 million was pumped into the area for roads, facilities and other infrastructure.

Old Moor, also known as Wath Ings, had long been known by birdwatchers to be an important site for birds like the golden plover, redshank, lapwing and numerous wildfowl. By the late 1950s the Doncaster & District Ornithological Society had set up a small bird-ringing centre on the nearby farm - which is now the RSPB visitor centre.

Old Moor became an official nature reserve in 1975 and in 1998 Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council opened the wetland centre as the gateway to the new face of the industrial valley.

A National Lottery grant in 2002 helped the development of the wetland centre and the RSPB took over the management of the site from Barnsley Council in 2003.

In 2009 the Old Moor RSPB reserve had 95,000 visitors. Twenty two staff are employed there, and 140 volunteers help keep the site running. The popular Trans Pennine Trail runs alongside Old Moor.

RSPB Old Moor wetland centre, Barnsley
Old Moor RSPB wetland centre was once an important colliery at the heart of the Dearne Valley

Markham Vale

Twenty miles down the road, another former colliery site is not faring so well. Markham Vale Business Park near Chesterfield has had millions of pounds of investment poured into its regeneration since 2006 but so far has provided a poor return.

Five thousand jobs were promised when the 200 acre business and industrial park opened at Junction 29A of the M1, but four years later there are still only 87 jobs on site.

Markham Vale Environment Centre near Chesterfield
5000 jobs were promised at Markham Vale near Chesterfield but four years on there are only 87 jobs on site

Tim O'Connell of Rotherham Investment and Development Office says Manvers Business Park had similar teething problems when regeneration started in the 1990s: "People need to recognise it's a long process, not an overnight one.

"It's early doors for Markham Vale and the momentum has to get going. Since the Manvers enterprise was first declared it's taken about 20 years to get to this stage. If you'd challenged Manvers in the first few years it would have been a similar story."

But he admits that the current economy makes the outlook gloomier at Markham Vale than for its northern neighbour Manvers.

"Businesses are having a very difficult time - they're cutting costs and pulling their horns in. But hopefully when things pick up, Markham Vale is there - it's well located and has a lot going for it. I'm sure it will be a success eventually."

In pictures: Regenerated industrial sites
20 Aug 10 |  People & Places
Government back plan for ex-pit
30 Jun 10 |  South Yorkshire
The iconic Orgreave photograph
24 Aug 09 |  History
Steel Henge and Centenary Riverside
19 Jul 10 |  Nature & Outdoors
Potteric Carr
05 Aug 09 |  Nature & Outdoors


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