Just what happens now? That’s the big question on everyone’s lips after Sheffield Council announced it was parting company with Hammerson - the company which was going to build a £600 million shopping development in the city centre. Richard Marsden reports.
Shopkeepers, traders and visitors have called for Sheffield Council to press ahead with redevelopment of the city centre.
Despite the latest disappointment over the stalled Sevenstone scheme, jeweller Andrea Bywater said: “The city does have a vital need for something to be done.
“I feel Sevenstone is a major thing for the city - but maybe splitting it up into smaller schemes to be developed separately might give it more chance.”
But Andrea, who works for family firm Morris Bywater on Pinstone Street, added: “If the development plan is changed, there should be more consideration for established businesses like ours.
“We have been in Sheffield 38 years and were previously moved when Orchard Square was redeveloped. My main criticism of Sevenstone has been that it didn’t look after independent retailers and was focused on big stores.
“You want to stay where you are established.”
Maksim Kocura, owner of Rendezvous Cafe, on Union Street, said: “I’m all in favour of the regeneration of Sheffield and what has been done in terms of regeneration has been extremely good.
“It’s very important Sevenstone goes ahead and the council needs to complete what it started whether it means getting someone else in or borrowing money somehow itself.
“Otherwise the city centre will die and there will be no work.”
Property owner Chatt Iamsri agreed.
He said: “Sheffield is losing out to other cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. It needs a big city centre in terms of shopping, to ensure people come here.
“More shoppers is important for the economy of the whole area.”
Someone who has seen the ups and downs of the city centre over the years is Garry Scott, licensee of The Red Lion pub, on Charles Street.
The 62-year-old is one of many who look fondly back to the days before Meadowhall shopping centre opened in 1990 and the city centre was bustling with shoppers.
He said: “It was a very vibrant city centre before Meadowhall and the area was busy with shoppers. There were stores selling everything.
“In recent years, a lot of money has been spent making the city centre nice but there is not very much special in terms of what is actually here.
“You need designer shops, specialist shops - currently it’s all a bit bland.”
Mr Scott added: “Another big issue is that, while there is a lot of parking, it is all in multi-storey car parks and there is not enough on-street parking.
“If Sevenstone does not go ahead there will be a problem because it is needed to join the city centre together and attract more people.
“Without it, all the investment going on down The Moor will be wasted because it will not be viable. If we eventually got Sevenstone it would be fabulous.”
The main sticking point between Sheffield Council and developer Hammerson was the risk of spending hundreds of millions of pounds building Sevenstone - if there were not enough shoppers or retailers wanting to occupy it when the economy is still fragile.
But a Sheffield town planning expert believes part of the problem is not only competition from Meadowhall.
Jamie Veitch, of High Storrs, said one of the reasons is retailers have to pay a much higher level of business rates than their internet competitors - who in turn undercut them on price.
Mr Veitch, aged 41, who works for the Towns Alive national regeneration charity, said: “A study was done in Rochdale which found retailers were £1,080 per sq metre in Rochdale shopping centre in business rates each year, when distribution centres using online companies such as Amazon only had to pay £44.
“That is such a difference and the situation might have the effect of putting off investment among retailers.
“I think Sheffield has a fantastic city centre in terms of things to do such as museums, theatres, bars, restaurants and open spaces.
“But I am worried about whether a scheme like Sevenstone is the right idea for Sheffield. In Liverpool, you hear about Liverpool One shopping centre banning people wearing hoodies.
“I think it might be better if we were to see good independent shops, more quality clothing stores, particularly for men, which are lacking.
“It might be a better idea than trying to offer something that is the same as everywhere else.”