Taxpayers have raised concerns about council plans to borrow £55 million for Sheffield’s long-awaited retail quarter.
Sheffield Council intends to borrow money to purchase properties in the area between Pinstone Street, Moorhead and Barker’s Pool from developer Hammerson.
Plans for a £400 million Sevenstone shopping centre, on the site were shelved last year, following repeated delays from Hammerson, which still owns many of the properties in the area.
It is intended the council money would be spent over the next two or three years, with a return ‘anticipated’ in five or six years.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, said: “It’s a different scheme, the council have a stake in making it happen, we are not relying on somebody else but we are in the driving seat.”
A council report said money would be recouped through increased business rates and either a subsequent sale of the development site or ground rents following the completion of the quarter.
The authority hopes to defer interest payments on the borrowed money until the development is complete – and council officials have said about 24 developers have indicated an initial interest in the scheme.
Demolition work could start next year – with completion set for 2019.
However, concerns have been raised about public money being spent on the scheme. Posting on The Star’s Facebook page, Philip Corker said he was worried the development would be a ‘third -rate effort’.
He said: “It’s hard when you travel around the country to think of a city as wealthy as Sheffield reports to be that’s as far behind in terms of city centre developments – a crying shame for a city I call home.
“If we attract the rich to spend in the city then everyone in the city benefits, at the moment there’s nothing for them – nowhere to park, no shops worth a trip.”
Lee Swords said the money would be better spent on house-building in the centre of Sheffield.
He said: “Put the retail on the outskirts with Meadowhall, the extra residents in the city centre will provide extra finance for the existing retail area and support the pubs and dining outlets.
“Sheffield city centre is too large and sprawling, half needs demolishing and rebuilding as homes.”
Matthew Orme said he was yet to be convinced the scheme would come to fruition. He said: “It’s all talk until we see the first bricks being laid.”
And Patricia White said she was concerned about whether the plans would become a reality and questioned spending so much.
She said: “We will have to wait and see. Too much money is wasted on things we don’t want.”
n See The Star, Business Weekly Page 2 for more on the retail plans.