Sheffield Council ‘should not allow Hammerson to hold the city to ransom’ and consider axing the developer from the delayed Sevenstone retail project, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has urged.
Eight years have now passed since the £600 million Sevenstone retail quarter was first announced in 2005 - but work remains on hold.
Meanwhile, developer Hammerson is pressing ahead with schemes in other cities, including the launch of a public consultation into its £130 million Victoria Gate shopping scheme in Leeds.
In February, Sheffield Council said it was holding talks with Hammerson and was intending to get a formal commitment from the firm about when the work will start.
But no further announcements have been made and the boarded-up shops between Barker’s Pool and the top of the Moor remain.
Sevenstone was to bring a replacement John Lewis store and a new street of high-end shops to revive the city after years of decline.
Sheffield Hallam MP Mr Clegg said: “The city centre cannot forever be held to ransom by the indecision of Hammerson.
“I want them to make a commitment for the future of the city. I understand that times are tough but construction work should be going on now so the new shops can be ready for when the economy improves in the future.
“The council should otherwise look at bringing in an alternative developer. We cannot allow the Sevenstone project to be on hold and the city centre in limbo forever.”
Mr Clegg said the Government has provided Sheffield Council with ‘significant’ help by allowing it to use £30 million of future tax receipts towards funding Sevenstone - and that progress is ‘vital’.
Hammerson’s website describes Sevenstone as a ‘medium term’ development and lists construction as starting in 2015.
The estimated completion date is 2017.
Ri chard Wright, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce’s chief executive, said: “Sevenstone is in danger of becoming a millstone around the city’s neck because it is taking too long to happen but the delay has given us a chance to asses other options. Is it now time to invite ideas and interest from other developers?
“City leaders should show a bit of backbone and embrace development by IKEA and NEXT, and take the risk to tell Hammerson to put up or shut up. For goodness sake, let’s ask somebody else to bid.”
But Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “We are still working with Hammerson and believe Sevenstone will progress.
“Bringing in an alternative developer could actually add further delays to Sevenstone because the new firm would then have to take time to work up its own variation on the plans.”
Coun Bramall added: “When Sheffield Council was run by the Liberal Democrats there was a three-year delay in completing compulsory purchase orders for parts of the Sevenstone site, and that has contributed to the delays.”