Sheffield Hallam University campus masterplan: £800 million to be spent on 20-year project

An aerial view showing how Sheffield Hallam University's city centre campus could look.
An aerial view showing how Sheffield Hallam University's city centre campus could look.

"Long-term, what we'd like to do is move to a single main campus in the city centre," says Dan Ladbury, Sheffield Hallam University's director of estates, whose team is hard at work on a 20-year masterplan that will involve spending the best part of £1 billion on new student buildings, refurbishments, innovative schemes and more.

Presently, operations are spread across several sites, including the various Collegiate blocks in Broomhall and the central hub close to the railway station - but this needs to change, Dan thinks.

A view of the new Owen Building entrance from Howard Street - part of phase two of the Sheffield Hallam University campus masterplan.

A view of the new Owen Building entrance from Howard Street - part of phase two of the Sheffield Hallam University campus masterplan.

Having staff and students in one place, he says, simply creates a better experience. "It's also more efficient."   

In February when Hallam first announced its vision for the future, the masterplan was described as a 15-year blueprint, but this has now been extended to two decades, divided into four chunks of five years.

"Five years is a sensible horizon," says Dan. "You don't know what the future's going to hold in 20 years. But the important thing for us is having that long-term direction of travel."

The overarching ambition is for Hallam to become the world's leading applied university - an institution that offers teaching with a practical purpose, in the hope students can get good jobs at the end of their degrees, as well as studies that produce useful outcomes.

"The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre is probably the best example of that," says Dan, referring to the university's £15 million facility at the Olympic Legacy Park where the Don Valley Stadium once stood. "Rather than ending up in hospital with health problems, we've done the work through the research to put interventions in place to enable people to have a healthier lifestyle. You don't just get a journal at the end of it." 

The masterplan's contents, he says, 'really do underpin and support everything the university is trying to achieve through its new strategy and vision'. "Broadly it works out at about £800 million over 20 years."  

Hallam is a member of the Sheffield Property Association. The Star is focusing on the mission of the SPA – which aims to be the ‘collective voice of property in Sheffield’ and was the first organisation of its kind outside the capital – through a series of features looking at major ventures supported by its 50 backers, a diverse group including developers, construction firms, solicitors and commercial agents.

Since the university's proposals were launched, it has spent time assembling funding for the masterplan's first phase, costing £220 million. "That includes new buildings, refurbishments of existing spaces, and minor works and maintenance we need to sort out," says Dan.

This initial stage will focus on the Science Park off Howard Street, which faces demolition. Up to £160 million is to be spent on creating a new home for the business school and the social sciences faculty, including the law, criminology, sociology and psychology departments. A landscaped 'university green' is envisaged too. "There's a lot of hard landscaping around Sheffield, we're really keen that we start to soften that up a bit," Dan says.  

To allow the old Science Park to be knocked down, next summer staff and students will be moved to a revamped Furnival Works, near the Furnival Square roundabout.

"We're currently stripping that out," says Dan. "That will create quite a nice new workspace for them. It'll be really nicely designed inside."

It is hoped work on the first new buildings will start in early 2020, for completion in summer 2022. Planning applications have yet to be lodged.

"We've spoken to the planners, they're broadly supportive of what we're doing. They're keen to see more use in that part of the city centre, particularly as it's the gateway to Sheffield. It's one of the highest footfall areas of Sheffield, we get about 46,000 people up and down there each day. But it's probably not the best billboard for the city." 

Dan talks of making room for start-up businesses, shops and outdoor dining. "Essentially, the new heart of the campus will be in the mid-point of Howard Street - so how do we turn that into a really active, exciting destination and a place to be?" 

After 2022, attention will shift to the other side of Howard Street, where the Surrey and Howard buildings are to go in favour of a next-generation students' union, and a new main entrance for the university.

"The entrance is off Sheaf Square at the moment," Dan explains. "As a visitor, you've got to walk all the way up Howard Street and then drop back down on yourself."

Today's union - in the distinctive, kettle-shaped HUBS, which used to be the National Centre for Popular Music - will be kept and repurposed with a new entrance off the landscaped green. It could be used for teaching, Dan suggests. "We definitely will be hanging on to it and, if anything, looking to bring it into better use."

Under phase three, the Eric Mensforth and Sheaf buildings will be demolished and replaced with a new general laboratory space. The Owen, Harmer and Norfolk blocks are in line for refurbishment at this point as well.

In the final stage - ending in 2037 - Hallam will move out of the Collegiate Campus. A 'phased retreat' is planned while a good concept is drawn up for the area, most likely in partnership with another organisation. Starter homes, housing for the elderly or more business accommodation could be suitable, Dan says, and pre-application talks have been held with the council's planning department. 

"They are keen to see housing on there but they also accept it's in a conservation area so there are certain constraints."

On top of everything else there is the Sheaf Tower, a high-rise structure that could potentially soar to 37 storeys opposite the station, at the site of the former Nelson Mandela Building. Hallam has previously said the development supports, but is not a crucial element of, the masterplan - but the development would feature a conference venue with space for 300 people, a 120-room four or five-star hotel, roof gardens, dining and bar areas, 200 flats and units for food outlets on the ground floor.

Dan says the university is evaluating five serious expressions of interest. "It's definitely an exciting opportunity. We hope we can do something on there that benefits not just the university but the city as a whole and a real, landmark development."

At 37 storeys, it would be Sheffield's tallest building, beating the 32-storey St Paul's Tower nearby, but Dan urges caution.

"We developed that as a bit of a marketing tool, and it certainly did the job. We're not really too bothered about having a vanity project or putting our name to the tallest building, it's about getting the right development on the site that serves the needs of the city and ourselves. That's the main driver, really. It's not about sticking up a giant edifice."

Dan has been estates director for more than two years, and the masterplan is top of his agenda. "It will transform part of the city centre, there's not many jobs that create that sort of opportunity. I feel very fortunate and privileged to be able to do that. There are some really great people in Sheffield who share that passion. The Sheffield Property Association starts to channel that desire to bring Sheffield forward."