Breathing new life into city centre

Shoppers views: Natasha Fox, 19, left, and Danielle Pearce, 18, both of Parson Cross, Sheffield.
Shoppers views: Natasha Fox, 19, left, and Danielle Pearce, 18, both of Parson Cross, Sheffield.
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SHOPPERS said today they are looking forward to Sheffield’s new Sevenstone retail quarter giving the city centre a boost - and welcomed news the development will still go ahead.

The scheme will now cost less than half the original price, open five years later than originally planned, and be 20 per cent smaller.

sevenstoneram'How original scheme was supposed to look.''Part of the plans for the Sevenstone retail quarter, to be discussed by the council on Monday.'''View D: View from the new square in the heart of Sevenstone. With New Burgess Street to the right, the City Hall can also be seen beyond the steps on Cambridge Street to the left. From left, block 5 designed by Foreign Office; block 6 designed by BDP; block 1 designed by BDP; block 2 at the back designed by ACME; block 3 designed by Alford Hall Monaghan and Morris and block 4 designed by Hawkins and Brown.

sevenstoneram'How original scheme was supposed to look.''Part of the plans for the Sevenstone retail quarter, to be discussed by the council on Monday.'''View D: View from the new square in the heart of Sevenstone. With New Burgess Street to the right, the City Hall can also be seen beyond the steps on Cambridge Street to the left. From left, block 5 designed by Foreign Office; block 6 designed by BDP; block 1 designed by BDP; block 2 at the back designed by ACME; block 3 designed by Alford Hall Monaghan and Morris and block 4 designed by Hawkins and Brown.

But student Adam Woolley, aged 21, of Hunters Bar, said he believes it will still make a big difference to Sheffield once it goes ahead.

Adam, originally from Manchester, said new development had helped to completely revitalise his home city.

“Since the IRA bomb in the 1990s, Manchester has been transformed with loads of nice areas and good shops,” he said.

“Some parts of Sheffield city centre are quite nice but better shops are needed. The project will mean people don’t need to go to Meadowhall.”

Fellow student Nadya Libecans, from Frodsham in Cheshire, who is in the second year of a fashion design degree at Sheffield Hallam University, said the Liverpool One development, similar to Sevenstone, had transformed the Merseyside city too.

Liverpool One has involved the creation of a new open-air shopping street breathing new life into its city centre.

She said: “If the work in Sheffield goes ahead it will make a difference, because the city centre is not very good at the moment.

“Liverpool One has made Liverpool city centre a very attractive place to shop.”

Nadya’s mum Karym Libecans agreed: “Even if the Sheffield scheme is smaller than originally planned it will still be a good thing for the city.”

Young mum Danielle Pearce, aged 19, from Parson Cross, said: “The new shops need to be built in the city centre as soon as possible to make it somewhere you would want to go.”

She admitted she currently prefers shopping at Meadowhall rather than town. “It’s easier and everything you want is there.”

Her pal Natasha Fox, 18, also of Parson Cross, added: “I think something should be done so the new shops are built more quickly - maybe in two years’ time instead of four.”

But pensioner Jackie Brookes, from Ecclesall, said the downsizing of the scheme and the reduction in the money being spent on it was ‘terrible news’.

“I still come to town to shop but I can understand why people go to Meadowhall,” she said. “I worked in Sheffield city centre for 50 years and have seen it go downhill over the years. It’s such a shame.”

Delays in Sevenstone’s construction have already caused heavy losses for some shopkeepers forced to move out of their premises to make way for the development.

Many of their stores today stand boarded-up despite efforts to reopen them on short-term leases.

Simon Bower, of Pollards, which used to have a coffee shop on Charles Street, said: “We lost hundreds of thousands of pounds due to fewer customers as surrounding shops closed - but we won’t now receive a penny from Hammerson because we gave up our lease voluntarily so don’t qualify. We couldn’t afford to keep the premises open any longer.”

But some businesses are prospering in the area set aside for the development. Boarding on some of the buildings has been painted, and empty shop fronts are being used for displays by local artists.

The re-opened Henry’s Bar, on Cambridge Street, is pulling in a steady stream of customers to enjoy its food and real ale, while Music Junkee, a musical instrument store downhill from the bar, is benefiting from low rents.

Music Junkee’s director Martin Leverton said: “We could do with some more of the empty shops being re-let to increase footfall, because we do rely on passing trade to an extent. But the current situation is helpful for me because we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to rent a shop in the city centre.”

Sheffield Council said Sevenstone will still be a ‘high-end’ development at a time when similar schemes in other towns and cities have been scrapped due to the recession.

ORIGINAL PLANS:

* Sevenstone would have been the biggest single development in Sheffield city centre since rebuilding work after World War Two, and was to have cost £600 million.

* Some 75,000 sq metres of shopping space was to be built.

* John Lewis would have been moved to a new store on the site of the old Central Fire Station, on Wellington Street, and a double-deck open air shopping street was planned, similar to Liverpool One.

* Among the improvements were to be 100 new shops, up to 200 residential flats, a health club and leisure facilities, and a 10-storey car park.

*Construction was due to have started in 2010 with the first shops opening at the end of 2011.

SCALED DOWN PROPOSALS:

* Hammerson’s new proposal is for 60,500 sq m of retail and leisure accommodation and 2,500 car parking spaces - some 20 per cent less shopping space but a similar amount of parking as before.

* It will cost £285 million.

* Money will be saved by refurbishing the existing John Lewis store and building a single instead of a double-deck shopping street.

* Further savings will be made from the original cost by not having an underground service area for delivery vehicles and through a decline in site values which will see Hammerson paying landowners less money to complete compulsory purchase orders.

* Work is to begin in 2013/14 and shops are now set to open in 2016.