Glittering skyscrapers, a giant steel football and a beehive-style office complex – welcome to the Sheffield that could have been.
These images show how the city would have looked right now if plans approved at the height of the economic boom had gone ahead.
The Star publishes them today and tomorrow as part of an investigation into stalled development here. In total, an estimated £2 billion of proposed investment never happened.
Projects which were scrapped after the 2008 crash included several New York-style towers – notably one standing 27 storeys in Spital Hill and another in Broad Street; an eight metre high stainless steel football overlooking the M1; and a four star hotel opposite the train station.
A £400 million high-rise urban village would have transformed land around West Bar, while a ‘honeycomb’ digital complex was planned for Sheaf Square. Most famously, perhaps, a new retail quarter – Sevenstone – would have turned 20 acres of city centre space into a new retail quarter. But in many cases there is now no practical plan to entice development. Sheffield Council sources told The Star that because much of the disused land is privately owned, the authority is wary of attempting to influence what happens there, while there are no funds to develop land which is publicly owned.
Property and business experts today warned unless Sheffield Council took action, the plots – including the three acres in West Bar, twin holes next to the train station, and several patches in Spital Hill – will remain vacant for decades.
Nick Riddle, chartered surveyor and estate agent with Eadon Lockwood Riddle, said: “In terms of somewhere like the West Bar scheme, I think you could be looking at up to 20 or 30 years before you see meaningful development.
“Low property prices and a surplus of office space means developers won’t go near this land at the moment. That means if the council doesn’t intervene, nothing happens for years.
“Land isn’t worth much at the moment so the owners are going to sit back and wait for prices to rise unless the council either compulsorily purchases, looks to invest in infrastructure, or at the least, leases the land short term and turns it into a car park.”
Property agent Martin Crosthwaite, who has recently negotiated a sale which will bring neglected Weston Tower back into use, added: “The only chance for some of these grand schemes ever going ahead now is, I imagine, if High Speed rail happens – and that’s decades away. There needs to be other ideas on how to stimulate growth.”
Richard Wright, chief executive of Sheffield Chamber Of Commerce, added imaginative ways of attracting investment were needed.
He said: “You can’t blame anyone for these projects not going ahead.
“The economic climate changed suddenly in a way no-one predicted, and that meant there wasn’t the money. What is needed now is talismanic leadership to ensure Sheffield emerges strongly. ”