A complete rethink is needed over the council’s long-awaited plans to build a city centre retail quarter, a Sheffield-based group says.
The group, dubbed the Alternative Retail Quarter, ARQ, has called for a different approach, which would involve Sheffield architects and city contractors working alongside the council on smaller-scale projects.
The planned £480million New Retail Quarter scheme is set to transform the area around Barkers Pool, Pinstone Street and Moorhead in the city centre with new shops, offices, restaurants and flats.
But Rupert Wood, an ARQ group organiser and city resident, said: “The current proposals rely on outside consultants, investors and developers. We think it is important for a city to cultivate a far stronger element of local stake-holding in such a core development, not only for the character of the city, but also for its long-term economic health.
“We want to see Sheffield city centre thrive as a destination attractive to well-known retailers as well as local independent shops.
“We think this can be achieved with a plan that would see the main flow of wealth from rents and property management fees remaining in the city.”
The group say their approach is ‘more flexible’ than the council’s single scheme.
As it stands, John Lewis, which is a central partner in the plans, has still not confirmed a move into the New Retail Quarter and a developer has not been announced despite council chiefs saying one would be in place by early 2016.
Sheffield Council have already ploughed £43million into the scheme before a brick has been laid. The millions of pounds include buying up surrounding properties – £35million worth – and around £4.3million on design costs.
The council had to buy back buildings in the city centre from developer Hammerson after the former Sevenstone scheme was shelved after lengthy delays.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “When we released initial designs for the retail quarter we said that Sheffield was at its best when everyone came together. We are pleased that people are interested in the process of ensuring our city centre is as successful as possible – now and for future generations.
“The next few months will be important as we look to refine designs further and ensure we maintain momentum with the project.”