Sheffield’s missed opportunity... or a lucky escape?

Spital Tower (proposed), The Wicker
Spital Tower (proposed), The Wicker
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IT looks like a city from the future - and in a way it is.

These spectacular pictures show how Sheffield could have looked in 2013 if an estimated £2 billion worth of proposals approved during the economic boom had gone ahead.

But for some people, it seems, the city perhaps had a lucky escape.

Spiked projects included shimmering towers - notably three ‘stepping stone’ skyscrapers on The Moor and a 400ft building on Spital Hill; a plush hotel and a festival centre both opposite Sheffield Railway Station; and blocks containing hundreds of new student apartments in Broad Street.

The Hallam Tower Hotel, in Broomhill, would have been transformed into luxury apartments, while a £400 million high-rise urban village would have transformed West Bar.

Most famously of all, perhaps, a new retail quarter - Sevenstone - would have turned more than 20 acres of the city centre into a prime shopping district.

And the result, according to Valerie Bayliss, chairwoman of The Victorian Society South Yorkshire Group, would have been really rather horrifying.

“The sheer number of these grandiose tall buildings which were planned is astonishing,” she told The Star.

“I’m not against skyscrapers or modern architecture - I think a small downtown district somewhere in Sheffield, perhaps around the Castle area, might work well if we were a big commercial centre.

“But I’m not sure these tall structures would have worked at all because of Sheffield’s geographical qualities. St Paul’s Tower in Arundel Gate sticks out like a sore thumb from many views of the city.

“I think architects would do well to look at what is great about Sheffield’s architecture already and try and work with the grain, rather than going against it.

“My honest opinion is we’d be living in a worse-looking city if a lot of these developments had happened.”

She’s not alone in her view either.

“I’m not convinced Sheffield’s urban landscape would have been greatly improved if these had been built,” says Dan Brown, chartered architect with city firm Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson.

“Although if the economic conditions had been right I would hope that much better buildings may also have been constructed.

Richard Wright, chief executive of the city’s Chamber Of Commerce, wouldn’t be drawn on the aesthetic qualities.

But he believes the fact the developments didn’t go ahead created a unique opportunity.

He said: “This has allowed us to stop, think and reassess the city we want to live in.

“This could be a really exciting time because we’re essentially starting from scratch and we can say, for example, that maybe Sevenstone wouldn’t have been right anyway.

“Shopping is changing. People increasingly want more independent local traders, rather than just another shopping centre like you get everywhere else.”

THE SUPER-MODERN MOOR

Cost: Estimates vary but north of £300 million

What was it: An attempt to regenerate the city around Charter Row, Rockingham Gate and The Moor as a retail and residential quarter. It would have seen Chesham House and the Grosvenor Hotel replaced by 100,000sqf of shops - including a flagship Debenhams - 50,000sqf of office space and 210 apartments.

Standout features: Three ‘stepping stone’ towers would have led up to a 27-storey skyscraper complete with rooftop gardens.

Developer: RREEF, a German asset and wealth management company.

Permission granted: December 2007.

What happened: RREEF pulled out, sold the lease to Scottish Widow and work on a scaled down - though still impressive - development has now started.

NEW WESTON TOWER

Cost: £60 million.

What was it: A 23-storey residential tower on the corner of West Bar and West Bar Green also comprising office space, restaurants and bars.

Standout feature: Along with the West Bar Triangle, this would have been the third building over 200ft tall on a single Sheffield road.

Developers: A company, Hallana Ltd, was set up by the building’s owners to develop the idea.

Permission granted: June 2006.

What happened: Hallana was dissolved and the land sold for less than £1 million this year. The 1960s building already onsite will now be turned into student flats.

A NEW RETAIL QUARTER

Cost: £700 million.

What was it: A new retail quarter which would have transformed a 20 acres site between Pinstone Street, Barker’s Pool and Cambridge Street into the north’s premier shopping area.

Standout features: Some 100 new shops were promised over three ‘decks’; as well as leisure facilities including cinema and health club, and a 10-storey car park.

Developers: Infamously, London-based Hammerson.

Permission granted: July 2008.

What happened: The scheme was repeatedly delayed and scaled down before Sheffield City Council axed Hammerson.

THE FESTIVAL CENTRE

Cost: Undeclared.

What was it: The Festival Centre would have been a large public exhibition space attached to The Showroom cinema and Workstation in Paternoster Row.

Standout feature: A public terrace, large-scale windows and a massive ‘festival hall’.

Developer: The Workstation itself was behind plans.

Permission granted: The scheme was proposed in 2007 but no official application ever made.

What happened: The proposal would have needed large amounts of public funding which became inviable after 2008.

STUDENTS ON BROAD STREET

Cost: £70 million plus.

What was it: A complex of five blocks ranging from nine to 19 storeys in Broad Street, designed to accommodate 800 students.

Standout feature: Developers hoped the complex might have its own tram stop built in.

Developer: Watkin Jones of Bangor.

Permission granted: Never. The application was withdrawn in February 2006.

What happened: Part of the land has since been developed into smaller student flats.