Reopening city centre street could cost millions in lost funding Sheffield councillor warns
Millions could be clawed back and future funding cut or halted if a Sheffield city centre road is reopened to traffic, a councillor has warned.
Grants have been won on the basis of a traffic ban on Pinstone Street and reversing it could trigger demands for them back, according to Coun Martin Phipps of the Greens.
Future projects could also be harmed due to ‘reputation and relationship’ damage with other funders.
Meanwhile, the Government has warned it could halt all funding to active travel if schemes are removed ‘prematurely,’ without evidence or consultation.
Pinstone Street was closed to traffic in June last year to allow social distancing, some 36 buses were diverted.
The controversial move led to complaints from passengers and Labour council leader Terry Fox has called for it to be partially reopened.
Since then, Sheffield has won £15.8m from the Future High Streets Fund to improve Fargate, including a ‘Town Hall Square,’ based on the road being closed.
In November, Sheffield secured £50m from the Transforming Cities Fund to improve public transport, walking and cycling links.
Some £14.3m is for the city centre, including the permanent closure of Pinstone Street to motor traffic, adding a segregated cycle lane, additional walking space and landscaping.
That project links in with all of the other new active travel and public transport schemes being planned, Mr Phipps said.
He added: “If the council were to U-turn and re-open Pinstone Street to motor traffic it could start the falling of dominoes which could deprive Sheffield of tens of millions of pounds worth of improvements, if not more.
“There is also a serious reputational risk that funders will not want to invest in active and public transport improvements in Sheffield, as how could they trust we would follow through with our future proposals?
“Ultimately, without these schemes to shift the way we travel to public transport and active travel we won’t be able to deliver on Arup's recommendations to meet the council's zero carbon by 2030 commitment to address the climate emergency.”
In July, transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to council leaders warning that although some schemes were controversial, they needed time to bed in to allow them to be ‘properly evaluated and understood’ and ‘proof must be presented’.
He also warned that authorities ‘which have prematurely removed or weakened such schemes should expect to receive a reduced level of funding’.
The Department for Transport’s Capability Fund page goes further, stating that in some cases it has ‘halted all funding until we can be sure of the authority’s commitment to active travel’.
A Sheffield City Council report warns £2m is at risk.
It states: “There is an aligned delivery and financial benefit between the Connecting Sheffield scheme and the other projects in the city centre, such as the improvements to bus stops and public realm on Rockingham Street.
“The Connecting Sheffield scheme offers a £2m contribution to Pounds Park and there is a risk that should the Connecting Sheffield changes to Rockingham Street Bus Stops not be delivered, that funding may be clawed back from the funder.”
Pinstone Street is set to be discussed at a scrutiny meeting in Sheffield today.
Sheffield City Council was approached for comment.