Shopkeepers plead for help as small stores struggle and vacant sites blight Sheffield estates - VIDEO

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EMPTY stores, shuttered takeaways and falling customer numbers are blighting almost a third of struggling suburban shopping streets in Sheffield, The Star can reveal.

Five worst-performing district shopping centres are “facing major challenges” and four others are “sustainable but with greater potential” and could do better, according to a report.

Shops at Chesterfield Road, Heeley.

Shops at Chesterfield Road, Heeley.

Just eight out of 17 locations - fewer than half - are said to be doing well.

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The bad news was revealed in a Sheffield Council report outlining a new strategy - approved by cabinet - to promote local shopping areas.

The blueprint recommends a £250,000 of funding is needed over the coming year to help regenerate some areas.

Officers revealed shops are suffering badly too in 10 of 58 neighbourhoods - Attercliffe, Brightside and Grimesthorpe, Duke Street, Foxhill, Hemsworth, Manor, Norfolk Park, Tinsley, Westfield and Wincobank.

Many small stores are struggling to cope with competition from big supermarkets, leading traditional shops such as butchers and bakers to close.

Where stores have opened in their place, many have been takeaways open only late at night and covered by metal shutters during the day.

Desperate shopkeepers plead they need better parking, environmental improvements, and security to help them compete.

Miranda Plowden, the council officer who wrote the report, warned whole suburbs could falter if shops are not helped to thrive.

“District and local centres act as hubs for their neighbourhoods, offer facilities and services to meet everyday needs, are vital to the attractiveness and success of housing areas, and are a key component in why people choose to live or work in an area,” she said.

Plans to help have been drawn up after 1,100 members of the public and 210 businesses across the city filled in a council questionnaire.

Ms Plowden said the aims are to reduce vacant units and retain or bring back key facilities such as post offices, pharmacies, food shops, banks or free cash machines.

The council says it will look at holding markets in local areas, and making suburbs the venue for cultural activities and events.

It would also “work with other agencies, in particular the GP consortia and voluntary, community and faith group sector, to encourage location of services in district and local centres”.

Proposals include locating library services in district centres, and building links between them and schools.

The £250,000 of council funding would be targeted initially at four areas - Hillsborough, Stocksbridge and Chapeltown, and the small shopping area at Gaunt Road, Hemsworth.

Chaucer and Stocksbridge are also both the subject of multi-million pound private sector redevelopment schemes.

Further council funding could become available in the future for other areas.