A 60-year deal has been signed to bring hundreds of millions of pounds of Chinese money into Sheffield.
The Sichuan Guodong Construction Group, worth more than £1bn, has committed to the city in a deal that will be worth about £220m in the first three years alone.
That initial investment, secured by Sheffield Council, will fund ‘four or five’ city centre projects, according to the authority, although the details have yet to be confirmed.
The council, which will decide where the money is spent, said the deal would create ‘hundreds, if not thousands’ of jobs for Sheffield people.
Council leader Julie Dore said: “This is the biggest Chinese investment deal to be made by a UK city outside of London. And perhaps more importantly it is first deal of its kind to be made by a UK city.
“This is a real partnership. The projects funded by this investment will be determined by Sheffield Council, and the 60-year commitment secures a stream of investment into our city for the next generation, and means a whole range of projects become viable because of the long-term nature of the relationship.
“At a time of unprecedented uncertainty and turmoil on the national political scene, we have taken the bull by the horns and led by example here in Sheffield. We have the skills and the connections to drive economic growth in our city.”
Coun Dore said she could not be more specific on the nature of the projects that would be funded in the first three years, because they had not yet been decided - although she confirmed they would not be student flats. She mentioned the redevelopment of Castlegate and West Bar as options that had been discussed.
“We have got a masterplan and we have identified many development opportunities,” she said. “Anyone who wants a thriving, dynamic, cosmopolitan city would want office blocks and commercial activity, retail and leisure in the city centre - that’s bars, restaurants, hotels. We fall below some of the most successful cities in the world on that.”
The deal between the council and Sichuan Guodong Construction Group has been more than 18 months in the making. The company’s chairman and president Wang Chunming has visited Sheffield a number of times, and Coun Dore and deputy leader Leigh Bramall have spent time in China.
Mr Wang said: “Sheffield really does stand out amongst all UK cities as an outstanding business investment. This agreement illustrates our confidence in Sheffield as a city going from strength to strength, with real growth potential.
“We are looking forward to being a part of this over the coming decades.”
The deal is the largest in a series of partnerships between Sheffield and China.
The city has recently signed co-operation trade agreements with Daqing, the leading centre for the oil and gas industry in China and location of a major World Snooker International Championship, and the city of Nanchang.
Sheffield also hopes to host a major conference with Chinese business leaders next year.
One Chinese-funded project already underway in Sheffield is the £65m Chinatown development between St Mary’s Gate, Bramall Lane and Sheldon Street. Construction has already begun on the 20-storey scheme, which will comprise shops, food and drink outlets, student flats and office space funded by Chinese investors.
And as well as signing the deal with Sichuan Guodong Construction Group, Couns Dore and Bramall showcased Sheffield to more than 50 countries at the 2016 China Chengdu Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fair in June.
Coun Bramall said the deal would create ‘hundreds, if not thousands’ of new jobs for Sheffield people.
“The investment comes from China, but the workforce on these projects will be British,” he added.
“This agreement is groundbreaking. It will see the resources made available to deliver the vibrant, growing city centre our city needs.
“This will make Sheffield even more attractive to inward investment, create jobs and enable us to compete with other big cities. It demonstrates our ambition for the city.
“We have gone out and made this happen, not sat back and waited for others to come to us. Chengdu and Sichuan Guodong Construction Group are some of the best partners out there and we look forward to further strengthening our ties with the city to make this exciting project happen.”
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