Tech business zone bid for city centre

Park Hill Flats
Park Hill Flats
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Park Hill flats could be included in a revolutionary plan to create an enterprise zone in Sheffield city centre offering incentives and perks for tech businesses.

Council chiefs want special status for the Sheaf Valley - which includes Sheaf Square, the Digital Campus, Cultural Industries Quarter, Park Hill, Castlegate and the Wicker.

It would be the first urban enterprise zone after more than a dozen out-of-town former pit sites in Sheffield City Region were given the status three years ago.

Perks include tax breaks, such as business rates relief, superfast broadband and fast track planning.

Edward Highfield, director of Creative Sheffield - the council’s business department - said: “Sheffield has long recognised the importance of its growing technology and digital sector. This has recently been picked up by the national TechNation report and Chancellor’s Budget.

“To try to provide a further boost to this important sector, Sheffield is working to see if it can establish an enterprise zone for tech businesses in the city centre.”

Property agent Tim Bottrill, of Fernie Greaves, said: “Instead of putting an enterprise zone in the middle of nowhere, put it somewhere that development projects are happening.

“It’s an area of massive potential - to bring old buildings back into use and get new developments happening. We all want a vibrant city centre and that happens through companies occupying buildings.”

An enterprise zone could benefit a planned Makers’ Hub for start-up tech companies in the former Co-op on Castlegate. The Chancellor announced the £3.5m scheme in the Budget. Other schemes in the Sheaf Valley include Digital Campus Two, the redevelopment of Park Hill flats to include space for business and a huge empty plot in front of Sheffield station.

The region’s current enterprise zone includes more than a dozen plots of land - from Markham Vale near Chesterfield to Capital Park in Barnsley. Some 32 firms have moved in, creating 635 jobs since 2012.