'Bittersweet decision' as Sheffield tools business sells to housing developer
A Sheffield tool company boss has spoken of the ‘bittersweet’ decision to sell to a housing developer and make 16 staff redundant.
Richard Frolish says problems from the residential redevelopment of trendy Kelham Island were among factors that left Aircraft and Commercial Tools (Sheffield) Ltd, on Bowling Green Street, with no future.
The firm, which moved to the site in the 1960s, will close by December with the loss of 16 jobs.
Mr Frolish said competition from China, road closures, bad parking and complaints over noise meant it would have gone bust at some point.
Selling the site to Grantside had given him the option to wind up properly.
He said: “I’m sad for the lads losing their jobs, some have worked here for a long time. But this is better than if we had gone out of business without me being in control.”
Toolmaker Michael Atter, aged 60, has been at the firm for 44 years.
He said: “I thought I would be here until I retired to be honest. There was a lot of industry here, now it’s a traffic nightmare.”
The closure stirs the debate about the changing face of Kelham Island, a former industrial area that is now an apartment district.
Building owners are selling to developers and in some cases companies are being forced out.
Cabinet maker Paul McCarthy and silversmith Chris Perry – both based at The Cottages, on Alma Street - face having to move. Landlord AW Tools aims to sell it to developer Citu, which is building apartments nearby.
Some claim Kelham is losing what made it interesting in the first place and it is overdeveloped.
But Mr Frolish said the idea residents and companies could live alongside each other was ‘ridiculous’.
He added: “You can have pubs and bars but you can’t have engineering works. Once residents come in it doesn’t work. You can’t be a good neighbour if you want to run a business like this.
“Kelham is popular as a post-industrial environment, we are one of the last factories here. Personally I’m sad that it is coming to an end but that is part of the natural scheme of things.
Fifty years ago Tyzaks had a huge factory ‘with loads of presses banging away’ on the site of what is now Citu’s Little Kelham development, he added.
The building opposite the tools company on South Parade was Parkin silversmiths, it is now flats. So was the former Williams Bros fasteners on Green Lane to the rear. Atkinson Walker Saws on Cotton Mill Row is now a construction site where a huge steel frame will become flats beside the Shalesmoor inner ring road. The famous Kelham Island Tavern is now flanked by under-construction flats.
Jane Hulley, of WH Hulley ladders, on Ebenezer Street, which backs on to Mr Frolish’s tools business, said Grantside had also made them an offer, but it wasn’t enough to pay for relocation costs. But she did not object to development.
The company, established in 1877, employs four.
She added: “In the last seven years residential has really accelerated. The steelworks were waning anyway and developers have kept some of the nice old buildings. It’s come full circle a 100 years ago this was a thriving residential area. We have been here since 1971, all sorts of businesses have come and gone. It feels like we are the last one standing.”
The new flats will be adjacent to theirs and she had some concerns over noise complaints from residents, she added.
Mr Frolish said the argument that ‘we were here first’ was irrelevant once any new building was approved by planners.
York-based developer Grantside has submitted plans for seven-storey flats of 90 ‘co-living units’ with shared facilities including kitchens and lounges.
Fifteen people, Kelham Island and Neepsend Neighbourhood Forum and City Ward councillors have objected over short term residents, parking, noise, light, scale and the loss of a 19th century building.
One stated: “This heralds the loss of the last two manufacturing companies in area and has become a problem throughout the city where small companies are being pushed out and closed down due to property owners selling to developers for high rental apartments cashing in on the historic character but destroying the character that drew people there in first place.
“The works was once part of the biggest Brittania metal/silver plate manufacturers in the UK. The Ashberry family also served on the board of guardians for the workhouse. The area was hit badly by the Sheffield Flood, and is close to the site of one of the worst outrages (Acorn Street) where a house was blown up by trade union terrorists. Personally I'd like it to be restored to show the evolution of the building and have an information board on it.
“It is getting harder to explain the area’s history as so much of the area is now eclipsed with unsuitably designed housing.”
Steve Davis, managing director of Grantside said: “If approved, the Hive Central proposals would see the redevelopment of this highly-accessible brownfield site, with a new high quality building which aspires to achieve a net zero carbon rating.
“This development will be a major investment in Sheffield city centre and a vote of confidence for the city.
“The oldest building on the site (2-4 South Parade) has been much altered over time and is currently in a state of disrepair. Our heritage advisers conducted an appraisal of this building which has informed the planning application.
“The development is also looking to reuse the existing materials where possible in order to retain the heritage and for sustainability purposes towards a circular economy.
“Our belief is that the loss of this non-designated building would be significantly outweighed in the planning balance by the proposal to regenerate this brownfield site with a high-quality, well-designed building offering much-needed new housing and workspace in a highly sustainable, accessible location.”