Council reacts to Sheffield property bosses’ call to speed up land sales to drive regeneration: ‘We will work to understand where we need to improve’
Sheffield Council has said it will ‘look carefully’ at the complaints of city property chiefs – who say the authority is too slow to sell ‘jigsaw pieces’ of land that are vital for big regeneration schemes.
Sheffield’s perceived lack of success at competing with its neighbours Leeds and Manchester was discussed at a scrutiny committee meeting, where the council’s head of regeneration and property Tammy Whitaker said: “We are prepared to roll up our sleeves and get on with it and sometimes that means taking risks.”
Last week the Sheffield Property Association – a diverse group including developers, both city universities, planning consultants, solicitors and commercial agents – gave its verdict in a letter signed by its chair, Martin McKervey.
The S-PA called for changes in the way the local authority’s Property Services department deals with the sale of council-owned plots of land which, it says, are often pivotal to getting major projects off the ground.
“Regeneration is difficult. The first task is often to join up pieces of land legally to create sites big enough for a new office or new home. It is like doing a jigsaw. The issue is that the council owns lots of jigsaw pieces,” said Mr McKervey.
“Phone calls to Property Services can go unanswered for weeks, sometimes months. Too often council-owned jigsaw pieces of land come with a crazy price tag.”
Coun Mazher Iqbal, the council’s cabinet member for business and investment, said the authority was ‘fortunate to have a long track record of working collaboratively with the private sector’.
“Our relationship with the Sheffield Property Association is a good example,” said Coun Iqbal.
“As the S-PA has put forward, many great regeneration projects have been delivered in recent years as a result of our working together and we continue to strive to do more to create good quality jobs for all our residents.
“Strong partnerships are where you can give and receive constructive challenge.
“And as such, we will look carefully at the points S-PA have raised and we will continue to work with them and others to understand where we need to improve.”