Sheffield Ski Village: £6m road now needed to 'unlock' delayed £25m regeneration

A £6m road could be built to get one of Sheffield’s most important regeneration projects - the £25m Ski Village - out of a snowdrift.

By David Walsh
Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 9:32 am

Sheffield City Council has applied for a grant to buy land and build a new route across the former Parkwood Springs landfill site. It also hopes Network Rail will allow the use of a bridge to improve access to the proposed venue.

And it is spending £300,000 on a feasibility study into the project.

The flagship Ski Village is is a ‘hugely important’ part of Sheffield’s ‘Outdoor City’ brand which could create 400 jobs and attract 1m visitors a year.

Anders Hanson, of Kelham Island and Neepsend Neighbourhood Forum.

But it has been stuck for four years.

The site was hugely successful when it opened in 1988. But it was destroyed by fire in 2012 and then suffered repeated arson attacks.

Developer Extreme Destinations won the contract for a new facility in 2017. It was envisaged then that work would start in early 2020.

But earlier this year the city council was forced to step in saying the company had failed to make progress on the road ‘which is crucial to unlocking development potential’.

The problem: Douglas Road railway tunnel is deemed to be too narrow for a busy resort. Picture: Chris Etchells

The site is reached via a narrow single-vehicle railway tunnel on Douglas Road, Neepsend. It is seen as unsuitable for two-way traffic to a busy resort.

Now an investigation by The Star has uncovered a map which appears to show a new route across the adjacent former landfill site. It joins the top of Parkwood Road and then dog-legs down the hill and over a railway bridge before returning to Neepsend Lane.

In a potential one-way system, visitors could approach via Douglas Road and exit via Parkwood Road.

The authority and Extreme Destinations did not comment.

Google Earth image of the site showing the Ski Village and former landfill site, with track set to be upgraded.

Meanwhile, the 51-acre site is going back to nature, with bushes and plants beginning to obscure the remaining honeycomb plastic ski mats and large flytipped items.

Anders Hanson, of Kelham Island and Neepsend Neighbourhood Forum, said the delay was a shame - and he was surprised an alternative route had not worked.

“I would love to see it redeveloped and it’s perfect for the Outdoor City brand. It’s a great shame. I think a lot of the redevelopment around Kelham and Neepsend complements the Ski Village,” he said.

“My first choice would have been access via Oakham Drive through the industrial estate off Rutland Road. It is less than 100m to Vale Road and avoids the problem of the railway tunnel.

The Ski Village today.

“It feels like that would be the easiest and cheapest solution.”

It would also allow the Douglas Road railway tunnel approach to be prioritised for walkers and cyclists, he added.

“Over the past year a lot of residents have made a lot more use of Parkwood Springs. It’s an amazing green space that draws people in from a wide area.

“The Ski Village is going to be amazing but no one knows what’s happening to it at the moment.”

The Oakham Drive link is mentioned in the city council’s Parkwood Springs Draft Masterplan published in 2018. A business, Inkerman Silver on Douglas Road, stands in its path.

Peter Bull, of the Friends of Parkwood Springs group, said they did not have a preference for either route.

Almost all trace of the buildings has gone.

He added: “We were aware of the Oakham Drive proposal when the Masterplan was being set out, it looks like the obvious shortest link, but we understand that subsequent work has shown that there are operational reasons why it might be difficult.

“There needs to be more investigation of the alternative route before a decision is made, which the council report is setting in motion.”

He added: “We are aware that the Douglas Road/Bardwell Road bridge is too narrow for the increased use that the development will bring, and we understand the council’s view that the proposed route is the most feasible alternative.

“We appreciate that there needs to be further investigation before a detailed proposal can be brought forward, and that this report is part of that process.

“We are expecting to see Extreme Destinations make a planning application for the development as a whole in the next few months; and intend to take an active part in the consultation that will follow.

“Now that the access road has been separated from the main scheme, because of the timing requirements of the proposed funding, we will also look to contribute to the consultation that will take place when the investigations have been completed and a planning application is made.”

A city council report from March states it is the city’s ‘most significant potential outdoor recreational hub and hugely important to help further cement the Outdoor City identity and deliver economic benefits, such as over £30m increased investment’.

It adds: “Preliminary discussions have taken place with the landowner and Network Rail but detailed negotiation on legal agreements, potential warranties and indemnities still need to be negotiated.”

A bid has been submitted to the Sheffield City Region for £6m to buy land and build a road and car park.

Today, the Ski Village is judged to be in an ‘extremely poor condition’ due to fly tipping, fires, overgrown vegetation and invasive species. It is costing authority £30,000-a-year to look after.

In February, Alastair Gosling, boss of Extreme, said following Covid delays they now hoped to open in 2023.

Participation in outdoor activities had soared and the company had ‘the most amazing opportunity as its fingertips’, he added.

A planning application was set to be submitted within the next four months.

The authority stepped in to take on the road the following month.

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Thank you. Nancy Fielder, editor.

Sharks Ski Club members at Sheffield Ski Village in 1989
The solution: A new road (green line) across the former landfill site to Parkwood Road. Image from a Sheffield City Council report on access problems.
The 51-acre site costs £30,000-a-year to maintain.