Opinion: Old market plan needed

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The opening of The Moor Market today is being heralded as the start of a new retail era in Sheffield.

When it opens its doors today in an accessible location convenient for the western suburbs, the likelihood is it will attract a new generation of market shoppers as well as the traditional shopper with a limited budget and an eye for a bargain.

It is great news for the city and a fantastic boost to the Moor. It’s a move that really makes sense.

But what now for Castlegate, an already run-down area of the city that has now been robbed of its lifeblood? “Sheffield Markets are the economic heart of the Castlegate area,” the then council leader Mike Bower said in 1996 when plans for a multi-million pound new market hall for the city were first announced.

The area is already run down and unattractive, littered as it is by empty buildings, and it is particularly uninviting at night. There are grand plans for the Castlegate Quarter - as the planners call it - which were approved by the city council’s cabinet back in 2006.

This “masterplan” sounds exciting stuff. The vision is to capitalise on the area’s history as the birthplace of the city at the confluence of the rivers Sheaf and Don, and the site of Sheffield Castle.

There is talk of an urban park around the castle ruins and a riverside terrace, home to shops, offices, leisure and entertainment venues and homes, which would create a bustling, lively area, day or night.

The planners are confident that the quarter can become one of the most interesting, diverse and vibrant areas of the city.

It all sounds great and it’s not without precedent - the nearby Park Square and Victoria Quays have been given a new lease of life.

The important thing is to act quickly before the rot sets in and the area’s decline accelerates.

The timing isn’t ideal of course, with the unrelenting pressure on local government finances likely to be one of the hurdles to be overcome.