New stats reveal extent of Sheffield’s empty shop crisis as councillor issues damning city centre verdict

A councillor has admitted parts of Sheffield city centre are “less than ideal” after it emerged that more than one in 10 retail units are lying empty.

By Steve Jones
Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 2:44 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:40 pm

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment at Sheffield City Council, made the admission after a Freedom of Information request revealed no fewer than 12 per cent of the 898 retail units in the city centre were empty in December, when the most recent count took place.

That figure includes spaces that can be used for shops, cafes, restaurants or any other eateries. In total 105 units were vacant, excluding sites currently under development.

Last year it was reported Sheffield city centre had lost 18 per cent of its shops in the last five years. That was 10 per cent more than the overall average for town centres in England and Wales.

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Fargate Shopping in Shefffield City centre

The situation in the city reflects a wider regional trend. In 2019, research by Springboard revealed 12.5 per cent of shops in the North and Yorkshire on average have been vacant since 2011, compared with ten per cent in the UK as a whole.

More recently, the future of another popular store on Fargate – Topshop and Topman – was thrown into doubt after plans were submitted to the Council for new signage outside the front of the store, which is that of Superdrug.

Coun Iqbal said: “I think anyone would acknowledge that Fargate and High Street are less than ideal in their current form. This is why the council and partners continue to work hard to ensure we have the right plans in place to turn the historic high street into a place to be, not just a place to buy.”

He highlighted the £500 million Heart of the City II regeneration programme and the Council’s upcoming £25m bid to the government’s Future High Streets Fund as evidence they are working hard on improving the city centre.

“It is essential for us to create an environment for success through improvements in essential infrastructure and to take the city’s cultural renaissance to new levels,” he added.