SHEFFIELD’S long-delayed £600 million Sevenstone new retail quarter could finally take a step forward - as the city was named as one of the worst in the country for boarded-up shops.
A survey by the Local Data Company found three of the ten places in Britain with the highest concentrations of empty retail units in South Yorkshire.
Rotherham topped the poll, with 28.2 per cent of stores closed, while Sheffield was joint second worst with 26.8 per cent, and Doncaster was eighth, with 24.7 per cent of stores boarded-up.
Sheffield has a high number of boarded-up stores because of the large area which has been emptied for development of the flagship retail scheme. It was put on hold in 2009 due to the recession and most stores have been boarded-up ever since.
But Sheffield Council has taken steps to improve the appearance of empty stores, by having art displays in the empty windows and a small number of units have reopened on a temporary basis.
The latest to open is The Street Food Chef, launched by husband and wife team Richard and Abi Golland, on Pinstone Street, serving a range of Mexican-style food.
Matthew Hopkinson, of the Local Data Company, said: “Certain areas of the country have been severely impacted by the recession and are unlikely to recover.”
Council leader Coun Paul Scriven said: “People will not be surprised to know the number of shops which are empty awaiting redevelopment.
“We have not been resting on our laurels and will be making an announcement with Hammersons, the developer of Sevenstone, within the next eight weeks. It will move the project forward.
“Even in this most difficult of times, we have been able to open some of the empty units on a temporary basis and have been investing in the area of the Sevenstone development to make sure it looks good.”
The Star understands the announcement by Sheffield Council and Sevenstone will be that the purchase of the remaining land needed for the scheme will be completed by the summer, before the compulsory purchase orders expire, and there may be dates when work will start.
The scheme which will eventually take shape is to be a scaled-down version of what was originally proposed, with John Lewis remaining at its current site and the store refurbished.
And the proposed New Burgess Street shopping area would involve a single, rather than double deck of shops.
The forthcoming announcement is also likely to reveal the development can go ahead without £12m of Government funding, which is still waiting to be confirmed.
Sheffield Council’s cabinet on Wednesday is set to renew its approval plans to borrow £10m to help cover the £20m cost of completing the compulsory purchase orders, a move first proposed a year ago.
The balance was supposed to come from Yorkshire Forward but council chief executive John Mothersole said an alternative source had been found, although he would not reveal where the additional funds were coming from.