Sheffield Council defends 'eye-watering' grants for privately-owned buildings on Fargate and High Street

‘Eye-watering’ grants to bring privately-owned buildings back into use in Sheffield city centre ‘address the changes on high streets’, the council says.

Friday, 28th January 2022, 3:13 pm
Updated Friday, 28th January 2022, 3:13 pm

The Front Door scheme is paying out £900,000 to a pension fund and £750,000 to the private firm that owns Orchard Square, prompting a councillor to ask whether ‘we could have spread the jam a bit more’.

HOW HAS THE COUNCIL JUSTIFIED THE GRANTS?

But a Sheffield City Council spokeswoman said the money was being provided to maximise the use of buildings on Fargate and High Street to encourage greater footfall.

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The issue was highlighed by Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Lib Dems in Sheffield. He wondered if the grants were ‘over generous’ and whether ‘we could have spread the jam a bit more’.

Attracting more people would help address changes taking place on high streets across the country and the impact of the challenges of the pandemic, she claimed.

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She added: “The scheme is open to all businesses on Fargate and High Street and we’re working directly with the owners to facilitate applications for the funding, which has the potential to bring 86,000 sq ft of floorspace back into use for commercial uses and create up to 70 new homes and new community spaces.”

A council report states a further £3.4m is available for similar projects.

£900,000 is being given to the Medical Research Council Pension Fund to help turn the former Topman store on Fargate into offices.

WHY WON’T WORK HAPPEN WITH SUBSIDIES?

A record number of shop closures has forced landlords to consider new ways to make money. But many say renovating buildings is unviable - and therefore would not be done - without public subsidy.

The grants are being made by Sheffield City Council from the Future High Streets Fund, a £15.8m pot to improve High Street and Fargate.

Some £900,000 is being given to the Medical Research Council Pension Fund to help turn the former Topman store on Fargate into offices.

In Orchard Square some 13 flats are set to be created, and a covered events space, with a £750,000 grant to London Associated Properties

And £750,000 is set to be handed to London Associated Properties to convert disused space in Orchard Square into flats and improve the ‘public realm’.

WHAT ABOUT THE FORMER NEXT ON FARGATE?

The issue was raised by Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, leader of the Lib Dems in Sheffield.

He highlighted the £1.5m redevelopment of the former Next building on Fargate by Wakefield-based Woodhead Investments which has not received public cash.

He said: “They are eye-watering sums. Are we subsiding pension funds for their members and a private company to benefit investors?

“How much are they putting in? It’s always a balance, but money doesn’t grow on trees. In the interests of openness and transparency I want to know what they are doing.”

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