Executive director of Sheffield Chamber
The announcement last week by IKEA that it still wants to invest , following on from the NEXT planning refusal (now at appeal), is a real test of the ambition of our city moving forwards.
It also highlights the poor position we have put ourselves in by linking ourselves so closely to Hammerson because Sevenstones/NRQ seems to have been “coming” for years but never quite does!
To turn down IKEA after the NEXT decision would be unthinkable because we cannot refuse over 500 jobs, (plus those required to build the facilities), and we clearly need to stop wealth leaking out of the region when people go to Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham to shop.
And we have to let businesses invest where they need to – refusing NEXT because there is a site in the city centre is wrong! The chamber is delighted that IKEA stuck with the city because they were refused planning permission 10 years ago.
Meadowhall is a tremendous asset. We should nurture it and help it stay competitive. Ask yourselves – how many cities in the UK would love to have a Meadowhall within their boundaries?
Sorting out traffic issues at Junction 34 must be done because if the application for IKEA is turned down because of traffic issues our city’s decision makers need their heads looking at.
It has been said that allowing Meadowhall to invest and expand (and NEXT and IKEA must be in that category) would hold back the city centre. Rubbish. The city centre must be developed to reflect the changing requirements in the future.
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 back bone and embrace development by IKEA and NEXT, and take the risk to kick Hammerson to put up or shut up.
For goodness sake let’s ask somebody else to bid. The businesses and population of Sheffield deserve the opportunities in jobs and wealth creation these will bring and at the moment and for the foreseeable future our city is held in limbo.
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