£150m development deal is massive vote of confidence in Sheffield during crisis

Insurance giant Legal & General is investing £150m in Sheffield city centre in a massive vote of confidence in the future of the city.

Tuesday, 28th April 2020, 4:48 pm

The firm has signed a deal to fund the West Bar Square scheme off Corporation Street and Shalesmoor to ‘unlock the city’s post-crisis growth ambitions’ for regeneration, housing and job creation.

The surprise announcement - hailed as the largest ever private investment in a single phase of development in Sheffield - comes as most businesses and projects have been frozen by lockdown.Legal & General boss Nigel Wilson said he recognised the city’s ‘high potential’ and there had never been a more important time to invest.

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West Bar Square CGI.

West Bar Square is set to include Grade ‘A’ offices, 350 flats, a public square and a multi-storey car park.

Mr Wilson added: "During these unprecedented times, it is absolutely imperative that institutions continue to push forward with deals such as these, so we can position the UK for an accelerated recovery and lay the groundwork to support those most in need in society.

"Legal & General is in a unique position to support the UK economic recovery by recycling hard earned savings and pensions into real assets which promote job creation - through construction to office occupation - and create landmark master plans which incorporate Grade ‘A’ office space, a variety of housing and high quality public space.

"This is not new territory for L&G. Our investment partnerships in cities such as Cardiff and Newcastle are already delivering at pace. Likewise our vision for West Bar Square is to deliver a much needed new quarter for the centre of Sheffield.”

Legal & General has partnered with Sheffield City Council and Urbo (West Bar) Ltd.

The first phase will deliver large, modern office space, which is currently said to be lacking in Sheffield’s property market, for up to 1,800 workers.

That will be followed by 350 upmarket ‘build-to-rent’ flats which are usually for long term occupation and often have features including a bar, gym, laundry, cinema and concierge. It will also have a public square linking Corporation Street with Bridge Street and a multi-storey car park.

Urbo first submitted outline plans in 2016. Since then, Sheffield City Council has helped it acquire land through compulsory purchase orders from a patchwork of owners, it is also likely to take a lease on one of the office buildings. The partnership with L&G was announced in February last year. Now planning applications are set to be submitted in the summer.

Peter Swallow, managing director of Urbo Regeneration said: “This is a massively significant investment for Sheffield, and is a vote of confidence in the future of the city as a whole, particularly during the current climate."The funding partnership we have agreed with Legal and General will guarantee delivery of large scale regeneration in this important part of the city, linking the rapidly expanding Kelham Island district to the city centre.”

Coun Mazher Iqbal, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for business and investment, said: "Although I recognise it may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds in these difficult and challenging times, it is really important that we don't forget to invest in the future of our city and continue to support developments for when Sheffield emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is fantastic news for the city going forward and yet another example of how we are attracting major new investment partners into the city.

“We are repeatedly being told there is a shortage of new Grade ‘A’ office space in the city centre which could have a negative impact on the local economy in terms of options for new or existing businesses to move and expand.

“As a council we are helping to address this through making sensible targeted interventions in the market with partners.

“This development will create modern floorspace for thousands of jobs; hundreds of high quality new homes and improve neighbourhoods right in the heart of Sheffield. It will also provides attractive public spaces with sustainable urban drainage and better connectivity between the city centre and Kelham. It’s a huge project and Sheffield can’t wait for it to get started.”

West Bar Square, which sits behind the crown court complex will complement the neighbouring Riverside Business District, which already has office occupiers including the Home Office, law firm Irwin Mitchell and the Crown and Family Courts, he added.

And it will form a bridge between booming Kelham Island and the Catherdral Quarter up the hill in the city centre.

Legal & General has invested billions of pounds into urban regeneration projects across the UK. This includes partnerships with local authorities in Cardiff, Salford, Newcastle and Sunderland, as well as central government bodies such as Homes England and universities.