Neglected Sheffield landmark could be focus of 'special' gateway to city

The Wicker arches.
The Wicker arches.
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The time is right to create a 'special' gateway to Sheffield around one of the city centre's most iconic landmarks.

Business and community leaders have today revealed their ambitions for the area around the Wicker arches.

Castle House on the River Don.

Castle House on the River Don.

The route from the M1 to the city centre is bookended by major developments such as the retail quarter, Ikea and the Olympic Legacy Park.

But those who live and work in Castlegate and Spital Hill say money must also be spent there in order to make the most of the opportunities that exist.

That includes new homes - such as in the old Lion Works, where plans to create 90 apartments were revealed this month.

And it also involves influential community groups such as Sadacca, which is working with partners to become a focal point for the area.

The Lion Works looking over Spital Hill.

The Lion Works looking over Spital Hill.

Businessman David Slater, who is also involved in the regeneration of Attercliffe, said: This is about saying you are coming off that motorway and it’s going to be special. It’s about creating the best gateway in the UK.

"It’s an incredible opportunity to create it with not a lot of money. The foundation stones have already been laid."

Time to catch up with major developments

The view of Sheffield from the M1 has traditionally been industrial, with the now demolished Tinsley cooling towers creating the iconic image immortalised in The Full Monty.

A boarded up shop.

A boarded up shop.

But in just a few years visiting drivers - and Sheffielders returning home - will instead see the modern glass roof housing the £300 million Meadowhall extension, which was granted planning permission last week.

With Ikea opening later this month and the Olympic Legacy Park progressing at pace, the route from the motorway into Sheffield is quickly changing. So is the city centre, where excavations on the old Castle Market site are due to begin ahead of a plan to regenerate the area and hopefully uncover the ruins of Sheffield Castle.

But there is a gap along that city artery that could do with some attention.

Although the huge Tesco at Spital Hill has brought some investment to the area, much of the rest is either derelict or empty. Nearby offices are available for some of the cheapest rates in the city. Listed buildings lie abandoned and dilapidated. Windows are boarded up, and the famous Wicker arches are overgrown and covered in graffiti.

Spider Bridge.

Spider Bridge.

But the potential is there, according to those who frequent the area, to turn it into a key focus for the city.

David Slater, a businessman who is one of the loudest voices in the Attercliffe regeneration plan, said it was a big opportunity to create something 'special'.

"I want people to come to Sheffield because that’s where they want to be - and one of the big things is to create a city where people want to come," he said.

"Part of that city is its welcome and part of that is its gateway."

Mr Slater said the Castlegate scheme was 'very good' and needed 'wholehearted support'. The connection with Mary, Queen of Scots - who was imprisoned in the old castle - gives the area a story that few could rival, he added.

And investment in buildings such as the Old Town Hall - currently derelict and empty - would create a desirable quarter which could attract investment into neighbouring areas.

Security fencing.

Security fencing.

Mr Slater said it was also important to create reasons for people to visit Spital Hill. This could even include artwork, such as a statue celebrating Sheffield's steel heritage. Tongue only slightly in cheek, Mr Slater suggested the world's biggest knife and fork.

"The buildings are beautiful and it’s so frustrating as a Sheffielder," he said.

"If you open up that land in Spital Hill as a sculpture park - what you need is a big open space with some visual impact to welcome people into the city.

"The is the historic gateway to the city."

Buildings cannot do the job on their own, however, and that is where people come in. The Sheffield And District African Caribbean Community Association, known as Sadacca, is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the UK. But its influence in Sheffield has historically been limited to its membership - something the committee is now looking to change through partnerships with other organisations.

Chairman Rob Cotterell said it was a 'new and exciting' phase in which Sadacca would take the lead in a group that would work with the Wicker community and act 'as a beacon for the international community at the heart of the city'.

"Going forward from here we will be developing a cultural art quarter that will include an archive of our contributions to the city and how we have developed here," he said.

"We will also create a developing representation of our contributions to the art and industrial past of Sheffield that goes back before the great influx in the 1950s from African and Caribbean communities served here. The legacy continues"

There are also plenty of restaurants with growing reputations, and long-established businesses with loyal customer bases.

Sheffield Council's cabinet member for business and investment Mazher Iqbal said there was 'no doubting' the potential, heritage and community spirit of the area.

He added: “We have brought forward a number of improvements including our plans for Castlegate and uncovering the Sheaf , the extension of our award-winning Grey To Green scheme towards Lady’s Bridge and our planning team has brought a number of stuck sites back into use such as Lion Works.

"New flood defences and a pocket park at Nursery Street have also added to the area’s appeal.

“Major developments to West Bar Square and Kelham are further proof that this is an area of significant opportunity for the city.”

The redeveloped riverside area.

The redeveloped riverside area.