Meadowhall extension is back on in wide ranging plans to cope with Covid

Meadowhall’s extension plan is back on as part of a raft of ambitious measures to make money in a post-Covid environment.

By Business Editor David Walsh
Sunday, 22nd November 2020, 8:18 am

British Land has submitted plans for a £150m Leisure Hall on part of the red and yellow car parks, with shops and a ’new, aspirational food and drink offer’. But the proposal is smaller than the £300m extension approved in 2018 and will not have a cinema.

It is one of a range of schemes including converting the M1 distribution site off Vulcan Road into a leisure park with activities in warehouses - like nearby trampoline centre Jump - as well as an outdoor adventure area. The project also proposes new ‘big box’ shops selling outdoor equipment, sports and homeware near the Next Home store to the south of the centre off Sheffield Road.

And the existing Vue cinema will be expanded and modernised.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Impression of the revised Meadowhall extension.

It has been estimated that The Meadowhall Masterplan development would support the creation of up to 1,560 jobs and pump up to £71.5m GVA into the region's economy.

A bid lodged with Sheffield City Council states the need to improve its leisure offer is 'as important now as when the first extension plan was promoted'.

Shoppers’ needs had changed since it opened 30 years ago and ‘a successful and sustainable shopping centre’ had to have a range of leisure and food and beverage offers.

But the beauty of the new Masterplan was that it could be done in phases to respond to market conditions and to fit with other projects in the area such as the River Don District.

The aim is to have leisure and 'aspirational food and beverage'.

In a statement, British Land said: ‘The reappraised Masterplan focuses on bringing forward new leisure facilities in phases rather than through a single large development, providing flexibility in the rapidly evolving retail and leisure climate.’

The company, which owns 50 per cent of the 1.5 million sq ft site, submitted a revised planning application following a public consultation in summer.

The proposals also aim to change the use of The Source for office and other uses.

The original £300m Leisure Hall was shelved last year due to uncertainty from Brexit and in the economy.

The extension would take up part of the red and yellow car parks to the south east.

In May, British Land announced it had slumped to a £1.1bn loss due to the pandemic and the extension was still ‘unlikely’. But it had £1.2 billion of available cash and no requirement to refinance until 2024.

It quickly bounced back in June, with scaled down Leisure Hall plans and a range of other leisure and shopping proposals. Following a publication consultation they are in the new application.

At the time, Paul Case, development director at British Land, said they were taking a phased approach so the scheme could be changed if necessary.

He added: “Rather than deliver all our plans in one single step, as was proposed for our 2018 Leisure Hall, our new proposal would see delivery of different elements brought forward in a phased approach.

Simon Carter, chief executive of British Land.

“This enables maximum flexibility in how we deliver the project, allowing us to refine, adapt and respond to public needs and market trends. This added flexibility also means that some elements – such as the interim Leisure Park and an upgraded cinema experience – can be delivered much sooner.

“The primary vision remains the same. A Leisure Hall is still central to our plans and will enable us to transform our leisure offer at Meadowhall. We want to provide areas where family and friends can do fun activities together, simply relax, or enjoy a meal alongside their shopping.”

A planning statement in the new application states: ‘Additionally, there are significant changes taking place in the vicinity of Meadowhall, which the previous approval does not represent the most appropriate form of development.’

Earlier this week, The Star reported that land surrounding Meadowhall could be converted into logistics space - warehouses and delivery centres - under plans by the centre’s owners to make the best use of its assets.

Incoming British Land chief executive, Simon Carter, 45, said “realising the potential of mixed use” is one of the business’ “clear priorities” for the future.

A company spokesperson told The Star Meadowhall’s location on the outskirts of Sheffield next to the M1 makes it a potentially attractive to companies looking for distribution centres.

The report stated the plans were “medium term pipeline” but a clearer timescale was not given.

It is not known what, if any, impact this would have on shops and leisure at Meadowhall. The centre currently has a 95 per cent occupancy rate and Mr Carter said he has “confidence in the future” of British Land.

He said: “Our first half results naturally reflect the challenges in retail. Against this backdrop, we remain focused on active asset management, working to maximise rent collection and keeping our units occupied with successful retailers.”

Last year, the company unveiled plans for a River Don District which would unlock a disused site to the south of Meadowhall and build business units that could create nearly 5,000 jobs.

The idea was to complement nearby industrial sites by giving booming businesses potential to expand while also offering space for new firms to start trading.

In a statement, British Land said: “Advanced manufacturing and the health-related sectors are booming locally in an area increasingly referred to as the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District, with its primary focus around Waverley in Rotherham, Sheffield Business Park and the Lower Don Valley where the RDD is located.

“Despite this, land supply for these uses is limited. Our proposals would aim to change this.

“We intend to develop the RDD to provide the type of units in demand in the area, with the majority focused on helping new innovation-based businesses in the area to flourish.”

The brownfield site was previously used for industrial purposes but is now largely empty and only used occasionally as an overflow car park for Meadowhall. It benefits from an existing planning permission dating back ten years for an “office-led, mixed-use scheme.”

The new vision is for a number of “industrial, research and complementary office” units for “major occupiers and new start-up companies.”

This would run alongside the booming Advanced Manufacturing Park – which provides a home to huge businesses like Boeing, Rolls Royce and McLaren – on the Sheffield-Rotherham border.

It would also be just a few short miles from the health and research developments cropping up at the Olympic Legacy Park.

Thank you to all who support local journalism with a digital or print subscription to The Star.

The events of 2020 mean trusted, local journalism is more reliant than ever on your support.

Subscribe here so we can keep campaigning on your behalf. Stay safe.