IKEA and Meadowhall are stumping up £30m to cut jams in Sheffield after the council “played hardball” over congestion.
The flatpack furniture company is set to hand over £15m when its new Sheffield store opens in September, according to Jack Scott, Sheffield Council cabinet member for transport.
Meadowhall is offering the same sum if its £300m extension gets the green light.
The Meadowhall scheme has been delayed five times by Highways England – but it is now ‘happy to support this development in principle’.
The schemes will put thousands of extra cars on to roads already notorious for jams. The £30m will be spent on improving two roundabouts at Junction 34 of the M1.
Coun Scott said neither organisation made the £15m offer initially – but the city authority had ‘played hardball’ in negotiations.
He added: “The schemes will have a big impact in terms of jobs and the economy and we have to be as prepared as possible. It’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
COULD FUNDING END M1 TRAFFIC NIGHTMARE?
No one ever envisaged the amount of traffic that would use Junction 34 of the M1 in Sheffield – and the problem is set to get worse.
The area was notorious for jams associated with Meadowhall even before a raft of schemes were announced, deemed vital to the city’s prosperity.
That is why the city council played ‘hardball’ in negotiations for road improvements on the motorway roundabouts, according to Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for transport.
IKEA and Meadowhall are both offering £15 million. Works could include creating an extra lane, new traffic lights, changed timings and sensors.
Coun Scott said: “I appreciate people were frustrated by the length of time it took for IKEA to be approved. We always wanted it, but if we’d said ‘yes’ straight away we wouldn’t have got the money.
“Meadowhall has recognised the challenge. Its expansion will increase traffic, potentially significantly. It always recognised a contribution would be needed, but after robust discussions we got a good deal.”
IKEA is set to open a £60m store on Sheffield Road on September 28.
Meadowhall wants to build a £300m extension but has repeatedly run into a Highways England roadblock over congestion concerns.
The Lower Don Valley also has several big schemes on the way including the Olympic Legacy Park, the Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District and a £50m Peel logistics park on Shepcote Lane.
Count Scott added: “You can’t have significant developments without an impact on traffic. We think we have done everything possible to reduce it.”
IKEA has already paid for widening works near its store and improvements to tram stops.
Staff will be offered a subsidised public transport pass and it will have electric vehicle charging points, Coun Scott said.
It was the only IKEA in the country on a tram route, he added.
He hoped people would arrive by tram and pay for delivery, although he acknowledged there were likely to be ‘teething problems’ when it opens.
Meadowhall submitted a planning application in November for a £300m ‘leisure hall’ extension that could create up to 1,400 jobs.
In June, owner British Land scaled down plans, cut out a food store and promised not to convert areas including the Oasis into shops. Now it has agreed to put up £15m.
Coun Scott added: “This area is growing massively and no one ever envisaged the amount of traffic that would be going through it. It is a sign of a growing and vibrant city.”
He said he also wanted more public transport serving the area. And the much delayed Sheffield Rotherham tram-train scheme would ease congestion when it opened “hopefully” in
spring 2019, he added.
The Meadowhall application will be considered by Sheffield City Council’s planning committee on September 12.
A Highways England spokeswoman said: “We are happy to support this development in principle.
“Finer details of the design for the junction are still being finalised by the developer and once these have been reviewed, and we are happy they are safe and will not have an adverse effect on traffic, the holding recommendation will be lifted.”
The ‘hold’ has been extended until the end of September – the fifth time it has been imposed.
A British Land spokesman said: “We continue to work closely with Sheffield City Council and Highways England to develop our transport strategy.
“While details are still being finalised, we are confident that by listening to the community we have developed a plan that will bring a positive impact to the City Region, benefiting residents, businesses and visitors.”
An IKEA spokesman said: “IKEA paid in excess of £400,000 as part of the Section 106 agreement in sustainable travel. This includes improvements to the tram stop and cycle ways and will enhance the efficiency of the bus fleet serving the store.
“IKEA has also committed to improving local roads and junctions around the store to improve traffic flows.”