Retail quarter stops leakage to rival cities

Robert Lane of Lane Walker
Robert Lane of Lane Walker
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Sheffield is “leaking in excess of £70m a year” in spending on shopping to places like Manchester and Nottingham with a stronger retail offer, independent research shows.

That’s according to Nalin Seneviratne, director of capital and major projects at Sheffield City Council.

The figure came out when the authority unveiled £55m plans to ensure Sheffield’s long-awaited retail quarter will happen.

He said: “This scheme will be bringing that spend back into the city, not only for the benefit of this scheme but Fargate, The Moor and Division Street.”

Robert Lane, of commercial property agents Lane Walker, is chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership retail sector group.

He said at the top level, retail was about persuading pepople to stay in Sheffield and the region and spend their money here – and a strong retail sector was “essential.”

He added: “It is essential to Sheffield’s growth potential for jobs and everything.

“We have to create the right impression for investors who look at housing, schools, shops and facilities.

“We have to have a major retail offer to be able to compete and it has to complement Meadowhall.

“It’s all about attracting people to the city and it’s important that it goes ahead now, we don’t want to miss this economic cycle.”

The new quarter needed interesting retailers while, the continued presence of John Lews was “really important,” he added.

Nalin Seneviratne, said terminating the agreement with Hammersons allowed them to take a fresh look at the scheme in a changing retail environment.

Now, it hopes to have a development partner by spring next year and for demolition to start in 2015 with the first phase ready by 2019.

It is hoped the development will allow Sheffield to compete with other Yorkshire cities, like Leeds, whose Trinity Leeds shopping centre last month marked 22 million visitors in its first year.

The Sheffieldscheme, which could create 2,500 jobs, will transform the area between Pinstone Street and Barkers Pool on a ‘block-by block’ basis, in contrast to original plans for a covered mall.

Interest has already been shown by 24 developers and work could start on site in 2016, with the first phase complete by 2019.

Next month the council’s Cabinet will finalise structuring the property deal, which could include finding investors or funding the scheme directly. A decision on the preferred developer is planned for September.

Coun Ben Curran, cabinet member for finance and resources, said the investment of “hundreds of millions of pounds into the city” would be a massive boost.

He added: “This will enhance the status of the city itself and in turn stimulate office, commercial and leisure opportunities in the city centre.”