'Gross oversupply of leisure' - Sheffield City Council chief objects to £150m Meadowhall extension

A senior council chief has objected to Meadowhall’s £150m extension plan over potential damage to beleaguered Sheffield city centre.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 11:45 am

Nalin Seneviratne, director of city centre development, wants to stop the project fearing a ‘gross oversupply’ of leisure could damage attempts to reinvent town following a string of high profile shop closures, including John Lewis and Debenhams.

The move reignites the old row about Meadowhall sucking the life out of the city centre - but on a new battlefront.

And it comes after lockdowns and a massive surge in online shopping has damaged both sites.

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Meadowhall refurbishment
Meadowhall refurbishment

Mr Seneviratne says he is objecting in his role as a champion of the city centre, independent of Sheffield City Council.

His objection states: ‘The competing Meadowhall expansion project opening in tandem with Heart of the City 2 will leave both centres fighting to attract a limited pool of tenants – to the detriment of both centres, but likely impacting on City Centre more’.

In particular, council chiefs want ‘destination leisure operators’ in the newly vacant department stores.

But a survey predicts that if the development goes ahead Meadowhall will move up the national rankings from rank 26 to 23 while the city centre will fall from 42 to 55.

Nalin Seneviratne, director for city centre development at Sheffield City Council.

The objection adds: ‘Meadowhall is the dominant retail destination in the region, but the City Centre remains the main centre for catering and leisure and maintaining this and a diverse quality retail offer is vital to ensuring sustainability and promoting high quality urban living’.

The city centre is the worst it’s been for shop closures, with more than a third of units on Fargate empty.

Meadowhall has been hit with the closure of three large stores: Debenhams, Top Shop/Top Man and Miss Selfridge.

Planning permission for a £300m ‘leisure hall’ was granted in 2018. The project was pulled early in 2020 due to the pandemic.

British Land submitted a revised application for a £150m scheme at the end of 2020.

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

The leisure hall plan includes 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 shopping centre off Sheffield Road. And the existing Vue cinema would be expanded and modernised.

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

Director Darren Pearce insists the project is still on track but the mega-mall’s co-owner British Land has unveiled plans to join the warehousing and delivery boom with a logistics hub on spare land - as online shopping continues to soar.

Sheffield councillors and officers cannot comment on the scheme until it comes to the planning board.

Rotherham Council and Dransfield Properties, owners of Fox Valley shopping centre in Stocksbridge, have previously objected on competition grounds.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.